formerly published in Wild River Review
by Kimberly Nagy
Wild River talks to Sherry Dudas, Farm Planner for the largest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiative in the United States
“Welcome to the era of food activism,” announces the WorldWatch Institute (an independent research organization based out of Washington, D.C., which focuses on the 21st century challenges of climate change, resource degradation, population growth, and poverty). “More than ever before, how we farm and feed ourselves is how we change the world around us.”
As Honey Brook Organic farm explains in their brochure, “Community supported agriculture is an attempt to address the manifold problems of modern industrialized agriculture by redefining the relationship between farmer, consumer and the natural, biological systems which comprise a farm.” The organic label is not only nutritionally important but important to the health of our soil and water. Indeed “normal” farms (and agribusiness at large) remain major water polluters due to pesticide run-off but that’s food for another blog.
Of course, food is not just political, but deeply personal.
I might not have changed the world as much as I’d like through multiple years of CSA farm “membership” but I do like that just once in a while I can answer my six-year old daughter with precision (without a blink!) when she asks, “Mommy, where does that food actually come from?”
And I do know that heading to the farm (every week over summer and fall) has changed my life and deeply intensified my passion for cooking. Do I start with my indulgent use of fresh basil, dill, and cilantro in ever-changing dishes? Words are not enough. Or the way I’ve watched my daughter stuff herself on sugar snap peas, strawberries and more strawberries (her shirt drenched in strawberry juice) straight from the fields? Or how I just like the look of red and green lettuce, broccoli, spinach, kale, cabbage and garlicscapes scattered all over my kitchen counter?
Honey Brook Organic Farm located in Central New Jersey, is the largest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiative of its kind in the United States. Wild River Review asked Sherry Dudas, Honey Brook’s Farm Planner a few questions about the challenges and rewards of working on an organic CSA farm.
You are on the largest CSA’s in the country…To what do you attribute your success? Location, location, location as well as offering tasty, high quality locally grown certified organic produce for a reasonable price.
What can the ordinary person do to support local agriculture? Become customers of local farmers, refrain from complaining about noise or smells generated by farmers, and lending support when they need approvals from local officials to do projects like drill irrigation wells, improve their farm markets or expand their parking lots.
Doesn’t it cost too much? Our customers don’t think so – we have a 400 person waiting list at the moment. It’s not just a consumer transaction here – our members are looking for an experience — interacting with other members, watching ladybugs on the bean plants with their grandchildren, maybe stealing a smooch from their spouse in the PYO flowers. It’s the kind of place lasting memories are made, and it’s rare that we get any complaints about the price of membership.
What don’t people know about organic farmers? That we are chronically sleep-deprived during the growing season.
What disheartens you most about agricultural policy in the United States? Federal programs designed to help farmers conserve soil and water are underfunded, so less conservation work gets done as a result.
What inspires you most about your work? It’s got to be the joy it inspires in children. In fact, last week a boy (about 4 years old) hugged me when he found out I was one of the farmers here. I didn’t get that kind of appreciation when I worked at a desk job!
Sherry Dudas is Farm Planner for Honey Brook Organic Farm. She came to Honey Brook with over 10 years of conservation and farmland preservation experience, and is responsible for managing the farm’s marketing and promotion, special event planning, community outreach and related farm business and land use planning activities.