catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 9 :: 2003.04.25 — 2003.05.08


Offering hope for local food sources

Restored Gardens CSA is located in Sioux Center, IA and is my attempt at living out Creation Stewardship principles and reconnecting people to the land and the food they eat. Restored Gardens was born out of the many hours I spent as a student trying to understand conventional agriculture verses organic/alternative agriculture and what my response as a Christian should be to this large debate. The culture in agri-culture has truly been lost in our modern agri-business paradigm. As a college-educated city boy turned rural organic farmer, I am pursuing one hopeful action that both you and I can take to address this debate.

The Japanese have a word that sums up my hope—"teikei"—which means "food with the farmers face on it." I am seeking to do that here in Sioux Center, IA through the model of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSA, in brief, is a partnership between farmer and consumer. The core of a CSA is the mutual relationship between the consumers paying at the beginning of the farm season and the farmer supplying products specifically for the CSA members. You cannot get more local than that!

Restored Gardens CSA was started 5 months ago with my moving back to Iowa from the beautiful state of Maine, where I had spent the last summer, and last six months after graduation as a farm apprentice on a 200 member CSA. The first year for Restored Gardens will involve learning how to grow in Iowa, restoring the land, and building farm membership. I have 12 farm members, six of whom who will be receiving 5-10lbs of produce a week for 22 weeks, and the other six will receive a sweet corn share and be able to pick any excess vegetables from the 30-plus different types of produce that will be grown. We will also be raising 120 organic pastured poultry birds for sale to farm members and the community. Restored Gardens' farm philosophy is stated as:

We believe that the Lord has created and delights in His world and He has appointed us caretakers of his world so that we too might enjoy it. At Restored Gardens, we want to enjoy the world while we till it and care for it. Our goals are to help strengthen community ties in Northwest Iowa, to provide healthy, seasonal food for consumers, and to care for the land on which we depend.

Restored Gardens will also be working with Dordt College agricultural classes and individual study students in order to give students a practical model of sustainable agriculture being lived out!


Now, why would I want to farm this way and why would someone want to pay upfront for food when they can just go to the grocery store? Well, there are several distinct advantages for both myself as a farmer and you the consumer that are in sharp contrast to how our modern grocery food system works.

By joining a CSA, the consumer has access to food that is fresher and more nutritious than they could get from grocery stores. Farm members can come directly to the farm to get their produce that has been picked within 12 hours of pickup. Consumers are more in control of how their food is produced, by knowing where, how it's grown and who grows it. Farm members will know my name, work in and see the fields where there food is grown. They will have the opportunity to partake in the miracle of growing food! They are provided with a structure through which they can support a viable local agriculture, preserve local farmland, contribute to a healthy local economy, and become more aware of their relation to the land, farm life, and the processes that make our lives possible. By buying food from a CSA, the consumer can live Creation Stewardship out in a direct way! One tangible way I see this connection occurring is that all those involved with Restored Gardens like to refer to it as "our farm."

The farmer in turn is given the opportunity to make a viable income by growing food in a responsible and harmonious way, directly supported by the share members—no middle man, free market viable. Financially, this first year I may break even, but as membership increases to above 50 members, I will be able to support myself and a family. As a farmer, I know how much and what to produce ahead of time, allowing me to concentrate on land stewardship and long-term sustainability of the farm operation because of the stability, diversification, and flexibility of a CSA farm operation. I also take the deepest pleasure in knowing where the farm products are going to and feel more care, responsibility, and reward in my work.

I challenge you to get closer to your food source by simply learning the name of the farmer who grows your food. If a CSA is in your area (do a web search and you will soon find out), then join one. Go to farmers markets, start your own garden and share the bounty of the earth!

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