News

CSA NEWSLETTER 2018
What’s new for this year? 
          How’s our CSA doing?
                     Climate change and Regenerative Agriculture

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2018?

The only change this year is the dates of the season.  There will be a 3 week break between the current CSA season (ending May 23) and the start of the next on June 20th.  Also, we will continue the CSA through the Winter holiday for a continuous 50 week year from June 20, 2018 to May 29, 2019.  Here are dates for all the “season” options:

§  Full Year: June 20, 2018 – May 29. 2019 (50 wks)

§  Summer:  June 20 – Dec 12, 2018 (26 wks)

§  Winter:  Dec 19, 2018 - May 29, 2019 (24 wks)

§  School Year: Sept 12, 2018 – May 29, 2019 (38 wks)

 The decision to skip the 3 weeks was a tough call, but practicality won out.  The ashram’s annual retreat is now in early June exactly when the new CSA year starts.  A change of season always brings additional pressure on administration and when we are away, volunteers have to carry the torch.  We used to have the retreat locally, camping on the farm, but now go out of town making it very difficult to manage the inevitable glitches that arise.  Re the end of December holiday time, the poll asking members about this came out favorably to keep CSA open, which was the preference of the farmers and ourselves.

 HOW’S OUR CSA DOING?

Last year were some huge changes; the good news is they all went very well so this year we go forward with more of the same.  To recap:

  • Andrew Turner and Frank Kurlyo took on the Kimberton CSA (our main farm)
  • New Share Types:  along with the regular/main share, we added a No bread option and a Veggie/fruit Only share
  • Change in price structure to offer the discount for Full Year Registrations
  • Online registration

 The new farmers delved right in not only to the soil but the whole CSA operation.  At our request, they opted for focusing on quantity rather than variety of items per weekly share and it seems everyone liked this – more substance and less overwhelming; and they do a beautiful job of presentation! Everyone seems to appreciate the bunched and bagged greens including the Wednesday morning helpers who pack the shares 😊.  On top of everything, they managed to get the Demeter re-certification (for Biodynamics) completed which awaits approval now.  Andrew and Frank have admitted some “mistakes” i.e. things they’ll do differently next year, although we know from our 19 years of working with CSA that farmers are always making mistakes which really means learning from experience year to year and changing with the seasons – which takes a very special skill now with the climate changing. 

 Regarding the new offerings, most members stayed with the main share of veggies, fruits and dry goods supplements.  However, the No Bread and Veggie/Fruit Only options were very well received.  So, it helped retain members and even brought back former ones and brought in some new.  Descriptions about the share types are on the website > Share Options and Cost page.

 Last year, we had 52 shares of Full Year Memberships, 37 weekly and another 30 bi-weekly, which really helps with administration on all aspects – especially stability for both the farm and the School of Life.  We know it also helps members commit to their own health and eating habits 😊.  Giving the discount (5%) is worth it.  We wish it could be more but have to juggle giving the farmers what they need (and they always have a fair price) with a budget of food and finances that is fair for all. 

 Our first dabble with online registration was offered only for the Summer/fall and Full Year “seasons” and went very smoothly.  Technically, we should be moving to stage 2 by now but admit we are slow at this.  However, there is another online option in the works so stay tuned. In the meantime, we have good old paper forms to print or pick up, and we still work with checks and cash.  Checks are necessary for those who pay with installments (giving post-dated checks upfront is imperative for administrative purposes).  We may move forward with credit cards, but this entails fees – so even if we open the credit card option, checks are still preferred so as to keep the budget balanced and maximize the money available for your food.


CSA MEMBERS ARE CLIMATE CHANGE ACTIVISTS

This refers to the fact that many small family farms and especially BIODYNAMIC FARMERS are practicing REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE which draws down carbon from the atmosphere back to the soil where it belongs. 

“It's been documented by numerous researchers all over the planet on various continents that well-managed soil and healthy plants can increase soil organic matter by half a percent per acre per year. Organic matter is essentially carbon stored in the soil that was once in the atmosphere and is made through the symbiosis between plants and microbes: the bacteria and fungi. If we were to apply good biological management in agriculture across the planet, we could functionally sequester all the carbon that's been added to the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution in the 1750s in just three or four years. “

http://www.bionutrient.org/news/groundwork-health

Remember, the main tenet of BIODYNAMIC AGRICULTURE is to heal the soil.  The Regenerative Agriculture page on our website (under Why Biodynamics) has good easy to understand information about this.  Great for educating yourself or your children!  And to convince others to join the Spiritual Food CSA 😊

 We all benefit by attracting new members


**************************************************************


2017 CSA NEWS:

As the times are changing in many ways, so too with Community Supported Agriculture.  We surveyed members to hear feedback on different offerings considered for  next CSA season.  

1.         Offering a VEGGIE ONLY box in addition to the current “Main Share” which has the bread, eggs, cheese, fresh fruit, dried fruit, and other dry goods

2.         Offering online registration and payment

3.         Offering a gluten-free and vegan option


The decision was to add a NO-Bread share plus a Veggie/Fruit Only share.

Also to have online registration but to forgo online payment at this time.


If you’d like to know a little history behind this and the CSA movement, here it is:

Spiritual Food CSA began in 1997, 19 years ago, when most people had no idea what a CSA was and most CSAs were following what is now called the traditional model where members subscribed directly to one farm that would guarantee the integrity of the food and the subsistence of the farm for the benefit of the community and farmer alike: food sovereignty 1 [see below for excellent definition].  Over the years, many variations to this model have emerged thanks to creativity of farmers and community groups alike meeting farmers and consumer needs and abilities.  Businesses also jumped into the food-consciousness movement with a commercial model that, well, can compromise integrity and offer stiff competition for small farms.

 

Membership in CSAs grew rapidly from the mid-90’s to mid-2000’s, as did the number of CSAs in the country.  Spiritual Food CSA membership grew to 140-150 shares. Some reasons: food consciousness increased demand for high quality and organic food, the price of gas and therefore price of food jumped dramatically motivating people to seek local food sources, and an increasingly hectic lifestyle and disconnect from nature drew people back to the land or at least to supporting people who work with the land and true food.  Then, CSA growth reached a plateau. Several articles, along with our own experience, point to this plateau and to a decline in memberships as not only a saturated market but difficulty for members to maintain a commitment for a season to a single farm’s harvest in our increasingly complicated lives.  We read that many CSAs have about a 60% retention rate which means they must reach out and enroll 40% more every year to maintain their membership level.  That’s a big burden for a farm that, we feel, should be free to do what they do best which is grow food and heal the earth. 

 

Our CSA member renewal rate was 75% in the first 10 years or so, and is more like 60% now, BUT . . .

A good portion of our reduced number of annual shares is not losing members but people switching from a full (weekly) to half (bi-weekly) share.  E.g. this year we have 150 members representing 94 total shares whereas before 150 members would be a total of 130 shares. 

Our goal is to provide the most possible shares for the farm along with meeting needs of member consumers.  Therefore, this year again, we are joining forces with the changing times to offer more flexibility and convenience while remaining true to the concept of supporting one main CSA farm, Kimberton CSA. 

 

We are also wholly dedicated to the cause of BIODYNAMICS.  An article published in Lilipoh Winter 2017 on REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE gives another angle to what BD farming has been doing all along:  healing the earth.  See “Curbing Climate Change Through Biodynamic Agriculture” by the managing director of Demeter USA, the certifying body for Biodynamic farms across the USA.  Look for this topic on this website under Why Biodynamics.

 

1 "Food sovereignty", a term coined by members of Via Campesina in 1996,[1] asserts that the people who produce, distribute, and consume food should control the mechanisms and policies of food production and distribution, rather than the corporations and market institutions they believe have come to dominate the global food system. Wikipedia

 *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

CSA Member Survey for 2015-16 season

In preparing the next CSA year, we are proposing a few changes in the price structure and request feedback from the membership to go forward. The changes are not dramatic but are intended to better reflect the administration and offer some benefit for those who make a bigger commitment to the CSA.

Enrolling and guiding new members and managing bi-weekly shares requires more administrative time while regular members keep it going year after year. The proposed price structure reflects this. It also covers aslight increase asked by the main farmer Erik, from Kimberton CSA, and maintains the same level of supplemental foods we get from other small farms (i.e. the organic and biodynamic fruits and dry goods, plus vegetables that the Kimberton farm cannot provide.) In contrast, for the last 2 years the price was the same for all except for an Early Bird discount for full year weekly members. Before that, for many years, the price was not changed more than $50-100 for the various types of membership.

Note: The results of this member survey were in full support of this change.

 *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Spring 2014 - news from the farms, the food climate, and the effect of recent changes made in the CSA

The farmers really need our support as they face Climate Change and this hostile political climate.  Our ability to choose what we eat is at stake.


 *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

GMO - Genetically Modified Organisms are changing the nature of Nature

 - our earth home, the bodies we occupy and all living things.

It seems that little by little, as technology grows, sensitivity to life diminishes.  Yes, it is true that young people sitting at computers in the USA are trained to send drones to kill live human beings on the other side of the planet.  Is there no end to the demolition of life as we know it?  We may not be physically unconscious but are we growing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually unconscious?  The makers of GMOs are knowingly changing Nature, but we do not have to buy into it. 

Yes, we are inundated daily with doomsday dramas, information, choices and decisions making it increasingly challenging to manage the mounting stress and to live a pure life; but no, this is not another message to add guilt or despair to our repertoire.  This is a message for a simple step we can take to make a difference. 

The best and easiest way to avoid GMOs is to join a CSA (be sure it is organic or Biodynamic).  Food comes straight from a farm that you know and trust on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.  Not only are you giving your Self and your family true food for life, but you will be giving support to organizations and farmers so they may continue to provide the true source of life. CSA is a new economic model that changes the rules of the game.  Instead of a competitive “free market” with winners and losers, the CSA model is a win for all.

The mission of Biodynamic farming is to heal the earth.  Some farmers even say that providing life-enriching food is incidental to this higher calling.  But providing food imbued with life force is exactly what they do.  It is noticeable in the taste and in the vitality of those who share in its abundance. 

Labeling laws are important to enable us to avoid GMO food but if you eat outside the industrial food system right now you are already preserving life and boycotting GMO, with the bonus of eating good and feeling good.  CSA is a win/win for our earth home, the bodies we occupy and all living things.


 *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

The Dangers of Plastic Bags power point presentation