A Few More

July 14, 2013

So both of my regular readers chimed in last week. If you read the blog early, you might want to go back to look at what they said. Of course, since both of the people who read the blog posted a comment, there’s no one left who needs to go back, but if I start following that line of thought I’ll end up with another blog on robots, and there’s no call for that during the high season of summer.

My thought is that if you care about the relationship with the farmer, as John Zilmer’s comment suggests (and which, I might add, is consistent with a thread that was running through “More Thoughts on the End in Sight?” its own self), then this is something that you might actually achieve better by shopping at a farmer’s market. After all, you can go down there and have a confab with the guy or gal who grew those green beans, and this is not necessarily something that happens when you pick up a box from the CSA drop spot. You might have a confab with several farmers, for that matter. And isn’t that all to the good and much more satisfying than the abstract idea of risk sharing or getting an anonymous (if tasty and fresh) box of veggies from the weekly CSA delivery?

And I think that it is. Which provides just one more reason why Thornapple CSA is having trouble attracting and keeping members. We have a ton and half of farmer’s market opportunities here in the Lansing area these days, up from a miniscule fraction of a ton just a couple of years ago. Every neighborhood business district has figured out that it is fun and festive to sponsor a market day, and if they can attract just a few real-live farmer types out there to display their wares, well it just adds a heap o’ fun to the festivities. And, of course, people show up, enjoy seeing their farmer (not to mention each other) & then they break out in a mile-wide smile. The whole scene is just smothered in Gemütlichkeit and if people just happen to buy a hot dog, a beer or a monkey wrench from one of the storefront merchants while they are down there feeling good about themselves, well who’s going to complain about that?

Of course the Marxists in the crowd will probably grumble about a commodity fetish or something, but they’re too busy reading intersectionality blogs to drop in on the Thornapple site, in any case. The net result, the cash value and the final payoff (not to cave into that commodity fetish thing) is that people feel better about shopping at a farmer’s market than they do about signing up for a CSA.

Now I hasten to add that our personal farmer, James Benjamin, has been showing up at the distribution location for Thornapple CSA so that you can schmooze with him just as sure as you could if he were hawking zucchini down at the Allen Street Market. May not be quite the same thing, but it’s certainly should go some distance toward building a relationship with the farmer.

Still and all, it’s making member recruiting into something of a challenge, and the business model for a weekly distribution CSA in the Lansing area just may not be sustainable, as a result.

Paul B. Thompson holds the W.K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University



One thought on “A Few More

  1. Paul,

    Boy, howdy, that is what is happening in the Springfield area, in spades. Whereas we had just one 3 day a week farmers’ market April -October, we now have a whole lot of Farmers’ Markets that have sprung up all over the place, one big one in particular that is getting a lot of press.

    I think I told you… a few years ago I bought some good fresh item from a nice gentleman manning the Farmers’ Market stand and he said, “Thank you, Richard.”
    Turned out to be.. Henry Beerman… we (and mom) were in German class together at (Southwest) Mo State, back a year or two after the Civil War.

    I knew the FM had moved from one corner of the Battlefield Mall complex to an opposite corner. I learned why from Henry.. the owners of the complex.. mall and vast parking area.. are from some other city.
    A circus wanted to come to town and set up on the mall. So the owners said, sure, you can use this space.. same as the Farmers’ Market space.

    So that made that space forever verboten for further foodstuffs activities.. elephant poop seeps into the cement or something as I understand it.

    So the days of disrespect or Farmers’ Markets seems to be ending. And I wonder, do you…

    Could this mean that Coops and the Dianes and her colleagues of the world have done their job well and coops are less critically important now that Farmers’ Markets are a ready and handy alternative to the explosion of Walmart Markets in the country… at least in Springfield?

    Anyway, this AM late Bernice and I did one of our Sunday morning routines.. breakfast/brunch at Gailey’s Cafe… downtown Springfield.. in an old historic buildin…. in my youth this was Gailey’s drug store. The counter we ate at and the benches we sat on are the same ones used by the Gaileys when they served up fountain cokes and milkshakes.

    The sweet potato hash browns and far as I know all the items on my full English breakfast, except the baked beans, were locally grown.

    Well, Paul, don’t worry about having few readers. It’s not counting the ones you reach; it’s reaching the ones that count. That is a saying shared by us change agents, which I prefer to think of myself as, rather than admitting failure at making it big as TV evangelist or rock star.



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