I’m one of those “farmers and ranchers for a Green New Deal,” and like a lot of them, my involvement started with soil.
I began market gardening in 1994, five years before my wife and I purchased the old tobacco farm where we’ve been doing organic farming ever since. Back in the mid-90’s in southwest Virginia, there was barely a hint of a “local food system,” save the occasional bartering of excess produce or the purchase of a quarter cow for freezer meat.
In that context, I started a tiny CSA — Community Supported Agriculture — with a dozen families, supplying them from my market garden. I reckon it was one of the first CSAs in central Appalachia.
Within four years, there were nearly 100 participating families and six other farmers contributing produce, eggs, honey and other staples, organized in a growers’ network we called Highlands Bio-Produce.
There were two types of farmers in our network: Amish, and back-to-the-landers. The customers who committed to us for the 28-week season, mostly middle-class folks, were also of two types: The “conscious consumer,” committed to good, healthy eating and willing to spend more time and money to get it; and the “dabbler,” who was willing to try something different, but as much for the novelty as out of any larger commitment.