Intelligent, strategic responses to political, economic, social & climate turbulence

January 2, 2017

My intention with the half-hour Youtube offering below is to present CSA farms to the public in the context of the severe turbulence now afoot in politics, economics, social structure, and climate change. I regard CSA farms as intelligent and strategic responses to all these hard realities.

My hope is that the slide show lecture, which is freely available, will be used to help strengthen community food initiatives around the Americas, and especially help to engage many more new people. We are going to need many more strong, vibrant local food systems, and we need them now.


Reminder: Call of the Land now at Chiron Communications

August 18, 2016

REMINDER FROM AUTHOR STEVEN MCFADDEN:
For the sake of convenience and coherence, earlier this year I consolidated  the website and the Facebook pages for The Call of the Land into the web pages for a broader conceptual umbrella: Chiron Communications.

I invite you to check out not only the web pages for Chiron Communications, but also the Facebook page.

This blog for The Call of the Land will remain online as a resource. It is an archive of 160 original articles, or blog posts on agrarian matters of consequence.

Chiron Communications serves to unify my diverse work as a writer, speaker, consultant and healer.

~ With respect, Steven McFadden


Community Farmers Convene in America’s Heartland

November 11, 2015

For dozens of reasons, it’s time to convene in America’s heartland a conference of farmers involved in Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA).

Thanks to the artful community collaboration of 15 farm organizations* – anchored by the Wisconsin Farmers Union – just such a gathering will happen December 3-4, 2015, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin: The Midwest CSA Conference: Moving Forward Together

…CSA is a unique model and thus deserves it’s own special gathering every couple of years to refresh the vision. Are CSA farms just a passing agrarian fantasy, or can they serve as enduring cornerstones for community and ecosystem renewal in our region and beyond? CSA is continuing to evolve as a resilient model in an era of rapid change…

At the conference I will have an opportunity to give a keynote talk: Awakening Community Intelligence: CSA Farms as 21st Century Cornerstones.

The rest of the story about the CSA conference is here in my blog for Mother Earth News.

CSA USE


Climate Change and the Power of Community

October 7, 2015

I wrote out a quick question on a slip of paper, and sent it on to the moderator last night as Bill McKibben of 350.org finished his lecture for the E.N.Thompson Forum in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Bill McKibben. Image from UBC via Creative Commons.

Bill McKibben. Image from UBC via Creative Commons.

“What about the role of industrial agriculture in climate change?” I wrote. A few minutes later the moderator posed the question to McKibben, who had a ready answer.

Industrial agriculture is a factor in global warming, he said, contributing about 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. “That needs to change,” he added.

McKibben said that all through the Holocene Epoch (the last 12,00 years) we human beings have been able to count on the basic stability of habitable conditions that allow agriculture. There have always been good years and bad years in one place or another, but the basic pattern has been stable.

“We can’t count on that any more,” McKibben said. “Climate change is biting harder and faster than we thought…It’s going to impact our ability to grow food.”

As McKibben was speaking the waters were still rising in the epic South Carolina flood catastrophe brought on by the whiplash of Hurricane Joaquin, and 2015 was decidedly on track to be the hottest year in recorded history.

“The disaster in South Carolina is off the charts,” he said, “but that kind of stuff is happening somewhere in the world every day now. And we are just getting started…We’re not going to stop global warming. It’s too late for that. But if we act fast enough and decisively enough, we may slow it enough to survive.”

McKibben said this is a beautiful moment for agriculture because for the first time in 150 years the number of farms is going up, not down. He commented that a lot of young people are seeing that the vocation of sustainable farming can help them address climate change by reducing ag emissions through agroecological approaches and improving the soil health so that it absorbs CO2.

In concluding his lecture McKibben observed that for years we have emphasized the importance of taking individual actions – such as using energy efficient light bulbs, riding bikes, and installing solar panels – as a way of countering climate change. “But that’s not going to do it,” he said. “It’s just not enough to stop climate change. Climate change causes are structural and systemic, and now pose the greatest threat of all time to human life.”

tpHe said climate change is requiring us to come together in a movement. “The power of community is the theme of the year ahead…Community is one of the best manifestations of being a human being. We are social creatures. We derive a great deal of satisfaction in working with each other toward a common end.”

McKibben and 350.org will be in Paris this December with a massive community of activists working toward a common end by sending a message to the world governments meeting for COP21 to try to strike a new global climate agreement. That message will be, “make this a turning point.”

In the aftermath of McKibben’s lecture, no doubt because it is the central topic commanding my attention these days, I saw again how important Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) can be in the context of climate change. CSA creates pathways for all manner and shapes of communities to apply themselves in support of the kind of agroecological healing of the land that will, indeed, make this a turning point. It’s time for Awakening Community Intelligence.


Double burglary stuns longtime CSA farm

August 25, 2015

All the major power tools at Fresh and Local CSA were stolen in the past two weeks, a devastating blow to production and livelihood.

allan-baillett-255x300

CSA farmer Allan Balliett

My friends, biodynamic farmers Allan and Maura Balliett, have operated this Community Supported farm (CSA) for more than 15 years in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Because of these thefts and insurance company hair-splitting over the supposed difference between “tools” and “equipment”, they may be unable to continue their farming work. They need help.

Two weeks ago the farm had the following equipment stolen: a Stihl Gas Powered Backpack Blower/Sprayer, and a Shindawa C350 brushcutter.

Then last week the thieves came back and stole both of the farm’s tillers. That theft included the rotary plowed BCS walking tractor that was the farm workhorse for incorporating organic matter and efficiently creating raised beds.

All of this is professional equipment is essential for the Ballietts to produce food for their Fresh and Local CSA.

Since they began farming, Allan and Maura have always been subsistence farmers who operated on a “shoestring.” The equipment which was stolen was purchased gradually. Each summer, they purchased one “big” item or piece of equipment. Now it’s all gone.

A BCS rotary plow similiar to some of the stolen CSA equipment.

A BCS rotary plow similiar to some of the stolen CSA equipment.

Without some support, it is unlikely that they will be able to replace any of this equipment that is so important to their livelihood and to the many families that are CSA members. They’ve lost all the professional equipment needed to run their farm.

Just a little background on Allan. He is a highly principled, devoted biodynamic farmer. A pioneer, for years he has been a powerful champion for the organic, biodynamic, sustainable agricultural movement. He has provided a tremendous amount of community outreach, and has organized and produced some of the seminal conferences on sustainable and biodynamic agriculture in the mid-Atlantic region.

Allan started the Biodynamics Now! discussion group online more than 10 years ago and continues to moderate it. This requires hours of his time each week. He also produces a podcast where he interviews major figures in the nutrient dense food movement.

Each year Allan has both interns and WOOFers who come to his farm and he imparts to them all of the knowledge he has accumulated over the years. He does all these things without being compensated financially and because he cares very much about producing highly nutritious, clean food while also building the soil and stewarding the earth.

When I spoke with Allan on the phone this past week, he seemed broken. “I’m ruined.,” he lamented. “I’m so broke that I may literally become homeless in a few months.”

To help out, I’ve started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Please consider following the link and providing help to restore the essential farm equipment so Allan and Maura can and get back to work growing food.


CSA Farms and Aggregators: Threshing Things Out

July 7, 2015

rodale_logoRodale’s New Farm magazine has published my article on CSA Farms and Aggregators in it’s Summer, 2015 edition. A few short excerpts:

“Community is not a warm and cuddly marketing concept attached to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). It is, rather, a defining element. Yet in the past few years, some middleman food businesses have appropriated the term “CSA” to describe what they are doing, without involving community. This practice is leading to confusion and concern….

“…In the context of this trend, the term CSA is in danger of following the word “natural” down a mushy pathway to the realm of meaninglessness…

“The food industry has just scratched the surface of “locally grown” as a business concept, but seems intent on digging deeper. As the business aspect of local food grows in size and strength, will the community dimension of CSA continue to wither? That question will be answered not just by farmers, but also by the individual human beings who constitute the community….”

For the full article follow this link.


This Changes Everything: CSA Farms & Climate Change

June 30, 2015

“Any attempt to rise to the climate challenge will be fruitless unless it is understood as part of a much broader battle of worldviews. Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war.” ~  Naomi Klein

Author Naomi Klein has stepped forward once again with a book – This Changes Everything – that is compelling, momentous, consequential. Her work weaves economics, ethics, environmental realities, science, geopolitics and activism to sound a sane yet urgent call to action.

In this context, farms and food are keys to the challenges that require action, and keys also to the solutions.

naomi kleinOur current global economic models, Klein writes, are waging war against life on earth. This economic war has unleashed pervasive and accelerating climate chaos. This does indeed change everything.

Confronting this reality is no longer about recycling paper bags and changing the light bulbs. It’s about changing the world before the world changes so drastically that no one is safe.

”Either we leap,” Klein writes, “or we sink.”

It is with increasingly sharp appreciation of these realities, and with full respect for the enormity of the challenge we face for ourselves and our children, that I undertook this year the task of writing Awakening Community Intelligence: CSA Farms as 21st Century Cornerstones.  

CSA book coverMy book is also a manifesto, though of a narrower scope. Awakening Community Intelligence is a call to households, communities, and organizations of all kinds to directly and actively engage with farms to establish hundreds of thousands of CSAs around the world. This might not change everything. But it would change a lot and in so doing it could make a big, positive difference.

Community farms in their many possible permutations represent new thinking. They hold tremendous potential for economics, the environment, human health, and social well being. CSA farms – on a far more widespread and innovative national and global scale – have potential to serve as stabilizing community cornerstones in our era of raucous transition.

The imperative matters concerning our life on planet earth will be brought into sharp relief this week when the nearly one-billion member Roman Catholic Church hosts ‘People and Planet First: the Imperative to Change Course.’

Klein has been invited to play a key role in this landmark conference, which will focus on Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on Ecology.

The thrust of the conference is toward economies and lifestyles that work in justice and balance for people and planet. CSA farms, I submit, can play an increasingly important role as we go forward.


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