News From the Farm | November 30, 2015

This may be the last letter to you, dear CSA patron, for 2015. We hope that you have had a positive experience this year as part of our farm. We have tried hard every week to have product in your boxes that we are proud of – reflecting our hard work and commitment to a healthy farm, while delivering freshness and great flavor. We understand perfection can be elusive. If we have missed the mark, we apologize, and we hope to do better next year.

Many of you have been through the cycles of a CSA season for quite a few years. There are many of you who fed your children our food as they were growing and they now make meals for their children with our farm goods. This is quite a rare thing in today’s economy – a multigenerational relationship with the source of ones diet. We have the same experience with many of our long-term farmers market customers. They have shopped from us for over 30 years and have watched our family grow, while each week we witnessed the same with their children. Many of those children have now grown and have children of their own. They come to the market to buy from our market-going kids!

There is shared trust in that long-term relationship. We live at a time when choice can be overwhelming and the act of making a purchase is analyzed – your personal profile responded to with ads tailored to your perceived likes – encouraging you to buy more…. We have sought to create a business that has at its core a mutually rich relationship where the experience of buying is the act of supporting an enterprise, a set of principles, or a group of people who incorporate transparent values into the process of production.  The scale and tangibility of that relationship becomes central to the experience of what your consumer dollars support.

For some families, their relationship with Full Belly extends through Hoes Down, farm visits, summer camp, a weekend farm dinner, or even a wedding in the shade of our walnut trees.  Some of the brides are former 3rd graders who many years ago milked the cow with Dru on a school farm visit. By opening our farm and allowing our customers to walk, share a meal, dance and celebrate here, we are immeasurably enriched.

Most farmers are proud of the crops they grow and are proud of the combination of art, planning and skill that it takes to grow good crops year after year. Yet, the satisfaction that might arise in a multigenerational relationship with their end user is often lost in the labyrinth of a marketplace where the farmer is generally anonymous. Our amazing US farm production system produces a lot of incredible food, and does it pretty cheaply. But in this system, farmers and farm workers remain generally separate and are often times the victims of the very surpluses that create social wellbeing. 

Not all farms can be like Full Belly, and not all farms want to know their end users. They produce – you consume. These are seen as separate and interdependent jobs mediated by the marketplace. Yet something is missed when the worlds are so separate. For many farmers they see the story as increasingly critical of their choices – of technologies, land use, water use, food safety, and of worker safety. It seems to me that one often gets what is paid for. When inexpensive food and low price is the primary driver, there is collateral damage to the very structure of the system: long term soil health, ecological diversity, wise water and land use. The very health of both farmers and their workers are often compromised. It is a design issue driven by the goal of cheap food.

I have predictably wandered off track. This Beet was intended to thank you for your patience with us this year, and for your commitment to our farm when making your choice as to what your family eats. It is intended to usher out the wild ride of 2015 and welcome 2016 as a year to continue to deepen our relationship with you. In doing this work together, there becomes a growing alternative that offers another option for farmers who are caught in a hard design and consumers who need to be offered new patterns of choosing. Full Belly may not be a model that serves all farmers, but increasingly is becoming a satisfying and viable pathway for new farmers to begin and for older farmers to diversify and explore new options.

We hope that this may be a year of prosperity for you and your family. We are headed for a much needed break where some parts of the farm rest a bit. We will see you in 2016 – when we will play it all over again – learning, building and savoring this amazing experience of being your farm.

–Paul Muller