Farming in the City: A perspective from Caroline

Hi Farm Friends,

My name is Caroline.  I began working with Stone’s Throw earlier this April and will be focused on growing the farm’s capacity to engage with people and processes at work in the city around us.  I’m deeply curious about the possible relationships between farm and city and look forward to what promises to be a chaotic and festive season.  Hope you enjoy my shot at an inaugural blog post! 

I’m coming to the farm following a several month artichoke and sun filled gallivant through my home state of California.  It feels so strange, but lucky to experience a second advent of spring and the flourish of activity that comes with.  Between the push to get our soil ready and get transplants in the ground, I’ve been ruminating a bit on the politics present behind these concrete acts.  Stone’s Throw was recently approached and offered $5,000 by Chipotle.  We accepted the money, knowing that it will further enable our goals for the farm, but not without dis-ease.  We are wary of the ways that outside funding might compromise our working visions of the farm, our larger food systems, and city.  As a farm we have made a conscious political decision to operate as a for-profit business whose main revenue source is derived from vegetable sales.  We believe that growing food should be a viable livelihood and that operating through this structure allows us a greater degree of autonomy over our work and dreams.  But, without an economy or food system that adequately supports farming, it is a challenging moment to keep a farm in the city afloat.

When possible we try to meet these challenges on our own terms.  Through collaboration and scale, the agricultural coop that we recently formed will enable all of the farms involved to more easily participate in the current market economy while staying true to our ethical convictions.  However, working within a broken food system puts us into routine contact with spaces of ambiguity.  The Chipotle scenario is a good example. “Should we take money from a large marginally responsible corporation to build our farm?” Negotiation with these spaces reminds me that a new food system will not be the spitting image a Jeffersonian agrarian fantasy; nor should it be.  We need to look forward and acknowledge contemporary complexity.

Ultimately, I would like to be free from financial dependency on practices that I find socially and environmentally destructive.  I want to live in a society where everyone is economically empowered to pay the true cost of food (one that fairly compensates labor and accounts for the stewardship of natural resources).  I want to live in a city that values development beyond its impact on the tax base.  I don’t foresee these changes being enacted by money siphoned off by corporations, or even foundations.  Such change will require radical political will and commitment from neighbors, policy makers, and governments.  While we are not always sure which direction the decisions we make are taking us, one of the greatest powers we have is to be candid about them.  We deeply rely on your support, not only as CSA members, but also as citizens.   

With a side of turnips,

Caroline

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