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