CSA Newsletter ~ Week 23
After 20 years of farming and all I've seen and done along the way, I've found myself doing more writing and speaking lately. Various groups of people interested in farming are particularly interested in what I might have to offer, and lately I've tried my luck at reaching people interested in various aspects of food production, resource use, climate (change), and local economies. Many of you were around this past summer when I got interviewed by Associated Press about the drought and heat wave, only to have my words twisted around terribly by the time the article was published in the Huffington Post. Since then I've written a couple things for Huffington Post as a blogger, in hopes of generating discussion (and maybe even publicity for the farm and what we're trying to do; more on that below). You can look at my latest effort here. I'm terrible at Facebook and all those things I could be doing to promote what I'm writing, but maybe if you guys read and respond some dialogue might ensue. Searching for me on Google (Huffington Post/Chris Covelli) works too; don't confuse me with an Italian chef of the same name!
As far as what we're trying to do, resources awareness and responsibility, and moving toward sustainability, are among my primary values. Food production/farming is how I express and practice them. When you hear about farms being "sustainable," it's a bunch of BS most of the time. Our worldwide economy, the financial imperative of paying ones bills and taxes, and the necessity of being part of society, preclude true sustainability. Working toward a system that doesn't erode the resource base that supports it is a great thing to work toward.
When I drive around the arid West's beef country (which most of the West) and see (rather, have my vision impaired by) the crazy dust storms that get kicked up by strong spring winds, I'm witnessing an incredibly unsustainable system. Already thin soils that can be held in place only by living grass (even if brown and dormant like lawns during droughts) are being blown across the landscape because of overgrazing. When grasses are overeaten they die back, exposing soil, which is easily blown by strong winds. Soil loss in the Midwest happens via cropland that has insufficient organic matter, which acts like a sponge--absorbing water and directing it into the soil rather than allowing it to runoff. Rather than soaking in, heavy rains run off carrying soil with them. Midwest croplands with slopes greater than 2% have lost billions of tons of soil over the last 150 years of agriculture. Despite its many other problems, conventional modern agriculture has done a great job recognizing the need to conserve soil and these days does much better.
Very close to home--and related to something everyone reading this newsletter can help with--are waxed vegetable boxes. The trees needed to make such boxes are usually 60-100 years old, while the produce in the boxes takes only a few weeks or months to grow. Even if the box weighs 5 or 10 times less than the produce inside, there is far more time, water, oxygen, CO2, and photosynthesis invested in the box than in the produce. Because our economic systems take for granted all this "work" and treat it as an unlimited resource, counting only the resources needed to cut the tree and turn it into wood and boxes, the boxes are very "cheap" to purchase in relation to their true natural resource value. When I first started farming and had no money to invest in boxes I'd go around and, at every opportunity, collect waxed boxes from grocery stores. At one point, I had 20 stacks of boxes 6 feet high. I've used (reused) most of those and recycled the rest now that they've figured out what to do with them.
Many thanks to the majority of you who've been returning the boxes we pack your produce in, and a reminder to those of you who haven't: please get them back to us. We just spent another $1,300 dollars on 1,200 more boxes for the Solo size shares. At the beginning of the year, we had 600 of these boxes, and we've only got 150 Solo customers, so we're not getting enough of them back. We don't figure these extra costs into our prices, and really do need the boxes back. They can last for a year of continuous use if treated well, so try to take care of them and get them back to us. (Click here for a brief video to show you how to break down and flatten the boxes so they don't take up so much room in between deliveries.) We don't want to, and probably never will, charge a deposit like the rest of the world would, so we need you to help us be extra responsible and return them to us. Thanks much.
and the Tomato Mountain Farm Team