Community Supported Agriculture in the Kootenays

the power in choosing locally

October 22, 2010 by Paris
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It is now the Fall. The first frost has come, marking the end of the season of growth, and the beginning of a time to draw inward.

The garden is being laid to rest – fed with manure, planted with rye and clover and covered with straw and leaves; the soil carefully tucked in for the long months of rain, wind and snow.

A few hardy crops remain – parsnips, cabbage, rutabaga, kale, chard, collards, Brussels sprouts, leeks, carrots and beets, sweetening as the temperature drops.

As the garden winds down, the team takes time to make notes about the successes and failures of each crop; we are eager to glean the learnings of the season and begin to look towards next year. What can we do differently? What will be the same?

As I reflect on the past season, and this space that has nurtured my learning in action, I ask: What am I willing to stand for? For whom will my voice rise? I live with the privilege of incessant abundance and the ever-present option of choice. In my daily actions, I wonder what will bring me to a consistent place of integrity, where my sensuous desires can be crafted to witness and convey.

In addition to our own garden planning, I am making contact with our local food producers, meeting to discuss how we will work with each other next year. The proximity of supply of a local food system enables but also requires greater investment in the relationships. By meeting face-to-face and listening to the stories, I learn that what we are being offered, from potatoes to apples, to wheat and lentils is truly a labour of love.

The farmers I know are deeply committed to the work of growing good food. And for that commitment they are willing to work 16-18 hours a day and live in poverty (the average farmer is either in debt, or if they are lucky – making on average 50-96 cents per day).

Hardy kale being bathed in water and Light

Most of the food produced through industrial agriculture is highly subsidized and as a result has externalized much of the environmental and social costs. In North America, we allot about 8-10% of our monthly budget to food – a relatively small amount compared to 20-25% for entertainment.

A study conducted by the University of Essex concluded that to pay the true cost of food (meaning paying a fair share of the expenses most often carried by farmers and then taxpayers), we would, as consumers have to pay an additional 16% for conventional industrial food and 4% for local organic food. The difference in the price is indicative of the costs born by local farmers, who while asking more for their food, still fail to pay themselves a living wage and often require one member of the household to subsidize through off-farm income.

One-way to provide a consistent reliable income to farmers is for us as consumers to share in the responsibility or risk for our food. There are many ways to do this and often the easiest in through economic support. As consumers we hold great power in how we spend our money. In stores and at farmers’ markets we can make the consistent choice to buy local, recognizing the value of the work and services offered by farmers.

Visiting Full Circle Farm

Another way is to join Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a model that allows consumers to become engaged members in the cycle of food, participating not only financially but also in many cases in work and marketing too.

Three years ago, a group of residents identified a grain gap in the local available food of the Kootenays. The Flats of Creston has long been a significant grain growing area, but not at the local scale. Thus the Creston Valley Grain Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) was formed with three growers from the Valley selling their grain to shareholders across the region. The ashram proudly purchased 150 of 450 shares.

It is exciting for me to see how we as an organization are significantly contributing to the re-localization of our regional food system. As a large consumer (over 53, 802 meals served & eaten each year!) our purchasing power allows us to effect change in our community, particularly for small producers, the pillars of a resilient food system.

Some of our local food system partners include –

  • Jim Pooch, a retired electrician who farms an acre in Crawford Bay and supplies our kitchen with carrots, squash, garlic, cucumber, corn in exchange for karma yoga help.
  • Jennie Truscott, local miller and distributor, who has become an invaluable resource for the ashram helping us connect with producers in and around Kootenay Lake. Jenny provides the important societal service of ‘glue’, gently inquiring with all those she encounters, offering suggestions, carrying messages and making connections.
  • Roy and Sherry Lawrence, grain growers. Now in their third year of production, the Lawrences have received their T3 certificate which means that they are certified organic and can distribute across Canada. Through the CSA and the guaranteed income, they have been able to bring electricity and water to their farm and now they are planning to build a home on site. They are grateful to the CSA as it makes their small business viable. Currently the 40-acre farm includes a mixed production of green lentils, companion planted with wild oats to provide shade, spelt, wheat, barley oats, and peas.
  • Joanne and Drew Gailius of Full Circle Farm. In addition to grain, the Gailius’ also grow garbanzos, yams, corn, green beans squash, navy and black beans. They are trying to operate without fossil fuels and instead use human and animal (horses) power for digging and plowing the fields and use gravity fed irrigation from up the hillside. The animals not only help with the physical work, but the horses, chickens and lamas also support an integrated cycle of waste and resource management, this decreases Full Circle Farm’s need for external inputs.

The Creston Valley

These people are willing to live the edge of integrity and risk because they believe in the importance of supporting not only their human communities but also the ecological systems that maintain our food system. They see themselves as part of a larger cycle of responsibility.

We as consumers can also choose to participate in this circle through the recognition of the service offered by the people and places that grow our food. We can support living wages, healthy ecosystems and vibrant communities, both locally and globally. When we make conscious choices, we can create the space for others to do the same. It’s our choice, each time we eat.

I am grateful for my opportunity to be in relationship with all aspects of a food system, to dig into the soil and to pause to consider what it all means. How then do I bring this gift most fully into service?

Indeed in my struggle with the inequity of uneven access and wealth, I recognize the privilege to practice karma yoga. It is the opportunity to give back, and the chance to rebalance the great blessings that have been received. Selfless service. This is the Work. As I walk on, I am grateful to have the freedom to choose my way forward and guidance to find the right path.


For more information on what Yasodhara Ashram is doing to support sustainable agriculture, visit: www.postcarbonmeal.org


10 Comments »

  1. Thanks for the info on the local CSA’s. Time to invest!

    It’s hard to believe that any of the local farmers can continue without something like CSA’s, given those stats about their supposed average daily income. Major blessings to them. Wow – thank you! I hope we can get a Hemp and Quinoa CSA in the Kootenays. If anyone hears of anything like that please do let me know.

    Comment by Simon H — October 22, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

  2. Thank you so much for this article. It is inspiring and powerful to know how we can move forward with integrity in our food choices.

    Comment by Sarada — October 22, 2010 @ 7:27 pm

  3. Paris – I learned a lot from your article. It is inspiring how the Kootenay area has come together, so many people, stepping forward and standing up for sustainability and mutual support. Since I read your last article I have shifted to shop more locally here in Spokane, or within our Washington State radius (some things must come from the coast for now). I buy from local vendors before going online or to a chain (it would have to be an extreme case for that), I’ve cut back on electricity use – it’s small steps but I know I, too, am at a different place than I was last year. Inside I feel more free and more a part of my community. I now also have limited financial resources and I’ve never been happier – I have to really budget to make it – so I value things a lot more and make more focused choices. I never thought I would find such joy in getting back to basics. Keep writing – om om to you and your ventures in Kootenay country.

    Comment by Deborah Rose — October 22, 2010 @ 9:43 pm

  4. This article inspires as it informs and encourages me to make a greater financial effort to support my local organic farming community. It reminds me that EVERY action I take matters. We are one living organism and to be healthy we must live with integrity and mindfullness and that requires relentless awareness. Mindwatch, mindwatch, mindwatch and never-ending mindwatch. Thank you so much for bringing me back to awareness.

    With much gratitude and love to all,
    donna mclean

    Comment by donna mclean — October 23, 2010 @ 5:14 am

  5. How wonderful to hear the ideas and inspiration from the work of farmers! And that yes, it is so simple. What inspires me is how us as a larger community are all so committed to bringing light forward with our actions. Thank you.

    Alanda Green made the suggestion that our community of food growers could be invited to join us for a meal at the ashram in celebration and recognition of their work and our relationship. What a great way to bring it home. Thank you for your comments. Namaste, Paris

    Comment by Paris — October 23, 2010 @ 5:18 pm

  6. Finally some space to catch up on Lightwaves and I’m delighted to read your article Paris – and receive the inspiring questions I can take into my practice.
    Slowly awareness is coming even to the large cities and I, among many in Calgary, will continue to support our farmer’s markets and local organic producers.
    We are all the richer and better nourished for it although perhaps not so easily recognized in tangible forms.
    In the Light, Faith

    Comment by Faith Stuart — October 25, 2010 @ 5:40 am

  7. Living in the Kootenays as I do, I have read much about Community Supported Agriculture over the years. What a treat to hear about it from the heartfelt and conscious voice of Paris. Thank you for your vision. I agree, to host the producers and share food with them would strengthen the bonds that CSA in its most ideal forms hopes to foster. Keep up your work, Paris. It is inspiring.

    Comment by Eileen Delehanty Pearkes — October 25, 2010 @ 8:51 am

  8. I’m so happy to live in an area where food sustainability is not only thought of but put into action. As a complete newbie in the realm of gardening, (and a bit of a perfectionist.. I want to do it right) is there a resource or class where I can learn how to start gardening?
    Having someone with experience look at our property and consult with us on the best place to put things would be a great service also.
    If these types of services exist, it would really help people like us who want to contribute to sustainable food but are so very inexperienced :-).

    Comment by Ben Johnson — October 25, 2010 @ 9:28 am

  9. Hi Paris,
    This article is really inspiring! I’ve just sent it to my home community in the Comox Valley, where there are viable CSA opportunities as well. Using your calculations for Ashram meals, I figured that our Creekside Cohousing community of 72 people eat approximately 78,000 meals a year. Considered in that way, small communities within a larger area can have a real impact when our purchasing power is redirected toward local choices and investments. When we personally combine our food and entertainment budgets, choosing more often local entertainments such as eating together followed by a community activity, we can happily increase our ‘food’ budget while having quality entertainment as well!

    Comment by Arlene Trustham — October 25, 2010 @ 10:35 am

  10. Hello Paris, this is so inspiring and exciting. I am feeling so privileged to be coming to live at the Heights and become part of a community that is living off the land in such a successful way. In supporting the efforts of local farmers we also support the health of our bodies. It is a true circle of sustainability.

    Comment by Marlene Roza — October 26, 2010 @ 6:20 pm

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