Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Community Supported Agriculture--the Limits of Locavore

The Post had a brief mention (today or yesterday) of someone who had had a CSA agreement with a farmer.  Paid $750 but the farmer had problems, whether weather or management it isn't clear in my mind, and she ended up unhappy with the deal.  She's trying again this year with another farmer.

I think this points to one of the issues with the new-ag type ventures and, perhaps, one of the advantages of the much derided "production agriculture".  I'd make the leap and say it's similar to the problems with charter schools and public eduction.  Or, it's like the 1960's again when no one got fired for buying IBM.  I guess for you youngsters the almost modern reference would be no one got fired for buying Microsoft.

What am I talking about?  Call it the dominant paradigm, to dress the idea up in fancy jargon.  Production agriculture, the chain of big farms, big wholesalers, chain groceries is the dominant, the majority way most people in the US get most of their food.  The public school system is the way most children get their K-12 eduction. The IBM main frame used to define the word "computer", as Microsoft defines "personal computer".  Some people try to come up with a new and better idea.  Typically that involves lots of experimentation, lots of learning by failing, lots of people who con others or con themselves, lots of adversity. When DC opened up to charter schools, the Post had horror stories of abuses and failures for several years.

To simplify further, the dominant paradigm offers the consumer safety: what's being sold is known and you know you're very sure of getting it.  Venture outside that paradigm and you increase your chance of rewards but you also increase your risk of disappointment.

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