Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News (MBL Media Sponsor)
We often write about how locally-owned businesses support community, but in this month’s article we’re focusing on how community supports businesses — in the form of Community Supported Enterprises (CSE). You may be familiar with one type of CSE, Community Supported Agriculture, but there are also CSFs, CSRs and more — a whole alphabet soup of community support.
Community Supported Agriculture, better known as a CSA, works like this: an individual or family purchases a share from a farmer — before the growing season begins — in exchange for a portion of the harvest. This model provides farmers with cash up front to help pay for seeds, compost and other needed supplies for the coming growing season. As a CSA member, individuals cultivate a closer connection to a farmer and experience some of the realities of farming — how weather, disease and other variables affect crop quantities and quality, and how much work goes into bringing food from the farm to the plate. Members also broaden their palette for local food, trying different types of produce in new ways thanks to recipe suggestions from the farmer and fellow CSA members.
In our region, there are over 20 CSA farms supported by more than 1,600 families. I’m lucky enough to be a member of Tracie’s Community Farm in Fitzwilliam, a 14 year-old CSA that provides weekly summer shares to 350 members. “Community Supported Agriculture brings together farms and members of the community to share in a mutually beneficial relationship,” said CSA Farmer Tracie Smith. “Members purchasing a share up-front also gives us a sense of security, knowing all the hard work we’re planning for and doing isn’t going to be wasted. They feel connected to their food and appreciate it more knowing who and what has gone into getting it to them.” Learn more about Tracie’s Community Farm at www.traciesfarm.com. Fall farm shares are available starting in August!
As a side note, one of Monadnock Buy Local’s fans asked us how many CSA farms and members there are in our region. We couldn’t find the answer, so we’re working to compile this information. If you’re a CSA farmer (and haven’t contacted us already), please email us your farm name and your current number of CSA members at firstname.lastname@example.org. We plan to share what we’ve gleaned with local food system groups like Monadnock Farm & Community Coalition and New Hampshire Farms Network.
Moving now from land to water, we find a different CSE model: Community Supported Fisheries. Instead of a share of produce, CSF members receive – you guessed it – fish! (And other seafood too.) In New Hampshire, 98% of fish caught along our 13 miles of seacoast leaves the state, while 80 – 90% of the fish we consume is imported from other countries. A CSF in Portsmouth, called New Hampshire Community Seafood, is working to change these statistics by linking fishermen directly to consumers. In addition to making these connections, NH Community Seafood is working to drive consumer demand towards more sustainable types of fish. It is encouraging its 275 members to try dogfish — a fish popular in Britain as “Fish and Chips” — by adding it to members’ weekly share along with information and recipes about this fish species.
CSF members buy a $200 share for two pounds of fish filets delivered once a week for eight weeks. Learn more at www.nhcommunityseafood.com. Interested in joining? One CSA member at Tracie’s Community Farm is trying to pool enough people to start a CSF share drop-off location near Keene. Contact Erin Moore at moorehappy(at)gmail.com to learn more.
It sure is hard to steer away from food when talking about Community Supported Enterprises! Next up is Community Supported Restaurants and The Gleanery in Putney, VT is one nearby example. Before opening, The Gleanery asked individuals to purchase CSR shares to provide start-up capital for this business. Members, in turn, received monthly food credits. What makes The Gleanery even more unique is that it takes seconds (bruised and imperfect fruits and vegetables) along with any excess produce from local farms and builds a menu around these local ingredients. They also work to preserve the harvest, canning what can’t be served immediately for use in future meals. Learn more at www.thegleanery.com.
A CSE model that feeds us in a different way is Community Supported Art. The Sharon Art Center in Peterborough offered 50 CSArt shares last year, including limited edition pieces of art from nine local artists. Artists were encouraged to incorporate the themes of sustainability, farms or food into their work. CSArt members receive three “farm boxes” during the summer months. Learn more at www.sharonarts.org/csart-2012-holiday-season.html.
Finally, we turn to Community Supported Retail. In the Adirondacks of New York State there’s a department store called the Community Store of Saranac Lake supported by 700+ members. When the Ames Store in their town closed, community members came together to fill a void (the nearest department store was 50 miles away). “[We wanted to] take control of our future and help our community,” said Melinda Little, Board Member of the Community Store. “The idea was, this is an investment in the community as well as the store.” The community opened its 4,000 square foot store in 2011. Learn more at www.community-store.org.
Now we ask you: What needs could a Community Supported Enterprises meet in your community? Which existing CSEs could you support more? CSEs are really about community supporting community — and in the words of Wendell Berry, “A good community insures itself by trust, by good faith and good will, by mutual help. A good community, in other words, is a good local economy”. Let’s build that good local economy together.