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The Local Foods Movements Has Made Half a Revolution. For the Other Half, We Need a Green New Deal

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.