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Making Farm to Consumer Connections

An Interview with Steve Moore, Former President of the Biodynamics Association of America

(Acres U.S.A. Interview, June 1997 issue, 1-800-355-5313 for subscription info)

Integrating spirit, toil, and wisdom, Steve Moore celebrates his farm and his community as one of the most successful examples of Community Supported Agriculture in the nation. For Moore, it has been a winding journey that has lead him from the halls of academia to the philosophy and practices of biodynamics. Though his undergraduate studies were in agriculture, Moore took the path of the academic and taught environmental engineering for five years at MIT. It took another five years in environmental consulting before he, once again, heard the call to the earth. Those years were a time of preparation where he rediscovered his strong orientation toward ecology and the ecosystem.

In the early eighties, the opportunity to return to the farm presented itself and Moore returned to his Southern California roots. "I had really thought, back many years ago, that farming, agriculture, was what I wanted to do," Moore said. "I guess I had to go away and do these other things to get back to what I really wanted."

He returned to the farm that had been in operation by his family for the past four generations.

“We were thrown into the situation. The farm had been chemically run for many years and was in dire straits culturally and economically. We had to make big changes.”

With the help of his brother, Moore moved the farm back to organics and began to look into issues of certification. His brother, who had worked with Alan Chadwick, introduced Moore to biodynamics.

“It was one of those things in which many threads came together and suddenly formed a whole. Everything fell together from there. From a cultural point of view, as soon as we started using the preparations, we saw the changes begin. The changes we saw in the reduction of pest problems and disease problems were so dramatic, it was pretty undeniable.”

ACRES U.S.A.: How would you characterize your position and your activities with Consumer Supported Agriculture?

MOORE: I am a CSA farmer. We started our CSA back in 1991 and it just looked to me like a unique opportunity to go in a different direction. Community Supported Agriculture really is a very broad term. Each CSA tends to develop quite individually within a particular community. But, I think, the common thread is the mutually supportive partnership that develops between a group of consumers and a farm or group of farms. That mutual support is the real key. It is the personal relationship between the consumer and the grower that enhances the success. In our own case, 90% of our production was orchards, and then the big freeze out here on the West Coast in December of 1990 just basically put our orchard production on hold for a couple of years. We lost some young trees and all of our production. We were faced wih a pretty traumatic situation. Vegetables were the direction we were going to have to go to keep things afloat economically. I couldn't see jumping into the wholesale market and the farmer's market was something we tried a little bit, but it just didn't appeal to me. The CSA concept was just beginning to develop. There were maybe one or two CSA's on the West Coast at that point. There were quite a few on the East Coast. I already knew a group of people in Los Angeles who knew about our farm. They had been supportive of us and were enthusiastic. They actually wanted more product. With that kind of support out there, why not go with the CSA? It was really valuable to us to have not only the financial support, but the community's support for our success.

ACRES U.S.A.: Basically, you are an independent farm and your associates are all independent farms. You've put yourself together with consumers in the city who will take the product on a regular basis with a predeveloped fee. Therefore, you have an assured income of some sort and they have an assured source of produce that meets all the requirements for sustaining health.

MOORE: Exactly. There are a couple of organizations that support the concept of community supported agriculture, but each farm is independent. It is no different, from that point of view, than wherever I might choose to market the produce.

ACRES U.S.A.: What you have done is derailed a little of that income and allowed it to stay right there with that farm because you don't have all the handlers and inbetween people who have sucked out so much of the income that the farmer should rightfully have. Is that correct?

MOORE: That is for sure. That is one of the reasons we are able to offer what we can. In some sense, both the farmer and the consumer benefit from that because it is a direct relationship. Another one of the things that I like about it is that it completely eliminates what I consider to be unnecessary bureaucracy associated with certification because the consumers are welcome to come to the farm. They know who I am. They know where their food is grown, so it's not even an issue. For a small to medium sized farm that has a local community that can support it, you have that direct relationship. We set down at the beginning of the season what we think we can provide over the course of our growing season, which for us is actually 12 months out of the year. We work out a budget. We develop what the costs are going to be as we look ahead for that year. We end up with a cost for an individual share. The consumers become a member of the community that supports the farm when they purchase a share. They put up a financial payment. Some people pay for the whole year in advance, which, of course, is a huge help in farming. Suddenly we have the cash we need to take care of all those front end costs that are typically hard to deal with in a farming situation. Usually, the farmer is the last one to get paid. In this case, the farmer gets his cash up front. Some people can't afford to pay that much so we also have a monthly payment program.

ACRES U.S.A.: What you are telling me is that you don't have a lot of unpaid tickets.

MOORE: No, I have very few. We've worked out an administration program that's pretty effective and I monitor that every month for the folks who are paying on a monthly basis. If somebody is late, we work with them. If it gets a little too far behind, we prod them as you would with any business. We've had very good success over the years in terms of timely payments and not absorbing a lot of unpaid shares out there. It changes the economic stream, the cash flow, for the farm. It turns it right around.

ACRES U.S.A.: Would you walk our readers through what really happens from season to season, from the point of view of the grower, and also, from the point of view of the consumer.

MOORE: In our case, "season to season" is just a calendar year. I do tend to think of spring, sometime in mid-April to the first of May, as when things start going in terms of what the consumers see. In the winter, we set out a production plan for what we're going to produce and make any adjustments based on feedback we've had in the previous year. We work out the budgets. I do a mailing to all the current members and I sign up new members. Not everyone continues from year to year, we have some turnover, but I keep a waiting list. I make a mailing to the waiting list based on the number of slots that are open. We start in April to make a weekly distribution.

During the winter, production is slow, so we distribute shares every other week. But, in April, we start with a weekly distribution. In April the shares are still small. I should say they are just smaller; there are just fewer things we can put in there. We've come through the winter season, and there is a lot more weather variability. I warn people about that.

They can expect a seasonal fluctuation and variations due to weather. But, by May, the shares are really quite full. We are starting to see some of the summer things creep in. We are starting to see some of the squashes and by June you have the full array of products. We have got quite a wide diversity of product in our shares. That will continue on until some time into the fall. By October, things start to slow down again. Then, by December, it has gotten slow enough that we shift over to distribution every other week. We are looking at just the products that can make it through a real cool season. Each CSA organizes according to their particular situation. In our case, we're about 90 miles from Los Angeles. We realized the tremendous population base to work with in Los Angeles, so we deliver about 80% of our share. We deliver down to Los Angeles once a week.

ACRES U.S.A.: To member's homes or to a central point?

MOORE: We have eight different neighborhood sites that we deliver to in the Los Angeles area. We drop anywhere from ten to 60 boxes or shares at each of those sites. The people come to whatever site they have signed up at a specified time to pick up their share.

ACRES U.S.A.: Do any of the sharers actually come to the farm and participate in harvest?

MOORE: About 20% of our members pick up their shares here at the farm. As far as participation in the labor, when we originally set up our CSA we discussed participation in the farm labor. We decided, together with some of the community members, that that would not be a requirement. And I felt, especially at that time, that it would just become too much of a burden to me to have people coming in, trying to keep track of how much work they'd done, and training them to do the work. A lot of people don't realize that farm labor is quite skilled.

ACRES U.S.A.: And it would be a management nightmare too.

MOORE: I had heard many horror stories from people who had depended on their community members to do a lot of the farm labor. It didn't sound good to me. I felt that for this to be a viable approach we needed to have a full-time group of employees. We actually have nine employees for the whole farm. They know the routines and the skills that are involved, so I am not in a training mode all the time. That makes a huge difference. Our farm is open. We have an open farm policy. People are welcome to come and see the farm. They are welcome to walk around. If they want, they can pitch in and hoe weeds. We always have something like that we can do. Folks who live in the city relish the opportunity to get out in the country and have that experience, so we like to try to provide it. To be honest with you, very few take us up on it.

ACRES U.S.A.: I can understand that. They don't have the time either. How do you go about the business of pricing the product?

MOORE: It's evolved over a period of years. We're in our seventh year now, so we have a pretty good idea of what our production costs are. Basically, we just look at the budget, what our expenses are. We look at the number of shares that we're aiming for and the cost divided by the number of shares. This gives us the cost per share. When we started, I sat down with a group of about six people, a core group. This core group was a representative group from the community who participated heavily in some of the decision making. We had a very active group from early on because we really didn't have any experience here at the farm. We weren't sure what to put in a share. We shared all the decisions that go into making the crop selections. We made our best estimate as to what the cost would be. I had a constraint that I wanted to work with that was self imposed. Because we had lost all or most of our fruit production, I had set out to try to keep the economic activity of the farm consistent in the postfreeze year with the prefreeze. I wanted to keep all employees employed. I didn't want to have to let anybody go because of the freeze. We were able to do that, although it was a little tight. The first year I tended to underestimate the cost and we were concerned about getting people signed up in the beginning. We came out much better than we would have, given the freeze, if we had not gone with the CSA. It took us about three years to get a good balance, a good handle on what our costs were. I would guess that would be typical of what most growers could expect who want to get into this.

ACRES U.S.A.: Are you shipping U.P.S. to any customers?

MOORE: We have one CSA member who was tranferred from the Los Angeles area and is receiving his share through UPS. He was transferred to a community that was too far for us to deliver, but is in the one-day zone for UPS. He didn't want to stop receiving his vegetables and suggested shipping. I was concerned that the product would arrive in a jumble and that the quality would be affected. But, I was willing to try it if he was willing to pay the additional shipping cost. I think we've been doing that now for three years at least. At first, we went to great lengths to try to protect the produce. We would pack it in a cooler. But we found we can just take the share box that we use. It's a 11/9 bushel, green bean box. We pack all of the product in there just like we do for anyone whose getting the share, whether they are picking it up at the farm or it's delivered in Los Angeles somewhere. We wrap that up and ship it out on UPS, he gets it the next day, and reports that, except maybe for strawberries, everything arrives in good shape.

ACRES U.S.A.: We've encountered all types of formulas for creating the price structure. For instance, one CSA operation worked it down to where it was $1 a day, $365 a year. Do you have anything simplistic that we can refer to?

MOORE: I would say, if there is a formula, it's around a dollar a pound for the product. Our shares, in retrospect, average around 18 pounds of produce per week over the course of the year.

ACRES U.S.A.: You give them a nice ration, don't you?

MOORE: It's in the neighborhood of 12 pounds in the winter. And it can be as high as 22 pounds in the summer, when you start getting all the summer squashes and tomatoes in there. There is a fairly wide fluctation. But it's around 18 pounds and a share costs about $18 a box. We distribute 42 weeks out of the year.

ACRES U.S.A.: So it would be a little in excess of $2 a day.

MOORE: Yes. An annual cost for a share for us is $750. For a dollar a day, we couldn't do it. I found in talking to various CSA people across the country that the cost of the share tends to fall in the neighborhood of $15 to $20 per box of produce.

ACRES U.S.A.: That should supply just about all the vegetable needs that a family would have for that week too.

MOORE: There is always going to be some supplementing because in most areas there are some things you are not going to be able to grow all the time. I tell most people, we will be providing most of your fresh produce needs, but you can expect a certain amount of supplementation.

ACRES U.S.A.: Do you include fruit?

MOORE: We have had such a demand for more fruit that we do bring in fruit that we don't grow, especially stone fruits, apples, grapes, even some citrus that we can't grow. We are on the coast, so we don't get the heat to do a real good job with things like that. Right now we are getting blood oranges from a neighboring farm.

ACRES U.S.A.: Are there any fruits that you do indeed produce?

MOORE: We produce persimmons, avocadoes, lemons, limes. We have a small, young orchard of grapefruits. This is our first year that we are going to harvest some grapefruit. It will eventually become sufficient to meet the needs of the CSA. We do include these on a regular basis.

ACRES U.S.A.: What systems do you use for your production? Are you organic? Biodynamic?

MOORE: We are biodynamic. The CSA concept fits the biodynamic idea of a farm organism remarkably well. It closes that loop even tighter. We normally think, in biodynamics, of the farm organism, the farm individuality. When you bring the consumers in, it opens up all kinds of possibilities for recycling, compost programs — all sorts of things. It strengthens the biodynamic concept a lot.

ACRES U.S.A.: In maintaining your various beds for your vegetables, do you use preparations like 500?

MOORE: We use the biodynamic preparations on a regular basis, but I think the somewhat unique system we've developed is based on extensive use of the biodynamic barrel compost, which is a mixture of cow manure, egg shells and the salt rock dust. It's composted in a pit with the biodynamic preparations inserted in it. We then use that material in conjuction with an extensive cover crop rotation program.

We have a highly integrated crop rotation system. Our orchard is laid out on a fairly wide spacing of trees and in between the orchard rows we have room to cultivate and prepare four 40 inch wide beds. We grow the vegetable in those orchard middles. Once the vegetables are done, we immediately come in and cultivate and sow a cover pasture crop. That grows up and we graze a small herd of Dexter cows and move them through. When we turn under that cover pasture crop's stubble, we spray with the barrel compost. So we are getting the biodynamic preparations, but we are also getting a crop rotation system. We don't use large quantities of compost. We used to, but we found that there were two problems. One, we had to import a lot of raw material to make the compost. And secondly, the cost of making the compost and spreading it was making our operation pretty inefficient economically. This barrel-compost, cover-crop grazing program has become a lot more efficient economically. It's giving us good results from a fertility point of view.

ACRES U.S.A.: Is the barrel compost product a sort of compost tea?

MOORE: It is used that way. What you end up with is a solid compost and then we use, typically, anywhere from one-half to one cup of this compost material mixed with several gallons of water. That would be applied to an acre. The conventional use of this barrel compost is to take that one-half cup of material, stir it in three or four gallons of water for 20 minutes, and then spray it out as a liquid. We've had excellent results fermenting this like a compost tea. We take, maybe, twice as much of the compost material and put it in water. We've used both a biodynamic stirring machine and a flow form device. We will let that sit for up to four days, stirring it once a day for 30 minutes or so. It has excellent anti-fungal qualities. We've actually had some laboratory bio-assays done on it and had some very good results. I've also seen excellent results as an innoculant, as a plow down for innoculation, as a foliar spray, especially for anti-fungal purposes. It seems to be just an excellent, healthful tonic for the farm.

ACRES U.S.A.: Do you make your own preps for innoculation of this material or do you buy this commercially?

MOORE: The compost preps I get are from Josephine Porter Institute in Virginia.

ACRES U.S.A.: They are sort of the lodestone for the United States.

MOORE: We make our 500, which we use, and we make some of our own 501. We buy the compost preps and use it to make our own barrel compost spray.

ACRES U.S.A.: Do you have success in breaking down the egg shells?

MOORE: We grind up the eggshells fairly fine. When you first mix up that mixture, before it's composting, the eggshells are identifiable in that mix. When it is finished, sometimes it's identifiable, but a lot of it is not.

ACRES U.S.A.: Do you produce any swine on the farm?

MOORE: No, we don't. We have a small herd of Dexters and a few head of goat. We have a lot of fowl, both chicken and ducks.

ACRES U.S.A.: As you know, swine production is hampered a great deal nowadays because swine no longer have access to the microorganisms in the soil. They are usually kept on cement platforms. They are anemic and that's the way they go into the market. What you have on your farm is a bed for the production vegetables that is super rich in microorgansms that keep that life flow in the soil.

MOORE: For me, that is paramount. We've opted for this rotation system where we take and follow every vegetable crop with some sort of cover or pasture crop. I have had many people question how we can afford to take that ground out of production. But to me, it is an investment.

ACRES U.S.A.: You're producing nitrogen, and other goodies that are returned to the soil.

MOORE: Absolutely. Most of the composting operations we see depend on importing a huge bulk of material either as a finished compost or to make the compost. I think one of the things we haven't looked at closely enough is where that material is coming from, and what its characteristics are. If it is grown on the farm, we have a much better idea of the quality of the material, and it's better for the costs involved.

ACRES U.S.A.: This is one of the things that Alex Podilinsky imparted to us in Australia. He said that too much of the manure that is brought in to make the compost is not fit to be integrated into a biodynamic farm.

MOORE: I, to a large degree, agree with him. There is an argument to be made that says if the farm uses these materials, it's a way to recycle the waste streams. But, we have to look at whether we are actually contributing to a demand for those materials that help maintain what is, otherwise, an unsustainable operation.

ACRES U.S.A.: One of our friends down in Texas, Malcolm Beck, has pointed that there are certain manures that are so laced with Picloram that they are no longer usable for food crops. Maybe it could be used for ornamentals or shrubs, but not for food crops.

MOORE: I think he makes a good point.

ACRES U.S.A.: What kinds of food crops do you include in this package?

MOORE: Let me go down the vegetable products and leave the fruit to the side for a minute: artichokes, green beans, yellow beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, corn, cucumber, eggplant, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsnips, bell peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, winter squash, radishes, salad greens, scallions, spinach, summer squash, strawberries, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, turnips, celery, asparagus.

ACRES U.S.A.: You have a balance between cold weather crops and warm weather crops, and you bend them around the season.

MOORE: Exactly. And then, we bring in fruits that we don't grow, the noncitrus, the avocadoes, the apples, the stone fruits, the grapes. We bring in Alan York's apples and Gina Nonini's biodynamic table grapes.

ACRES U.S.A.: Are all of the imports biodynamic?

MOORE: Not all of them, but if I can get them, that is my preference.

ACRES U.S.A.: Are they organic?

MOORE: Absolutely.

ACRES U.S.A.: They will, at least, be organic, but not necessarily biodynamic.

MOORE: Certified organic would be the minimum that I would require. In all cases, I know the grower personally. We are talking about a community — a network of consumers — and they are putting their trust in me, in terms of where their food is coming from. I feel like I need to extend that out. If there is anything we bring in that we don't grow ourselves, I want to maintain that connection. Actually, Gina Nonini and I, this year, are carrying this idea to the point where she is going to grow some of our hot season things that we have a hard time with here on the coast. She is going to grow some additional tomatoes, eggplants, melons. I am going to grow for her and her CSA, some of the cool things that she can't grow in the summer: lettuce, brassicas, carrots. We are beginning to develop a bit of an infrastructure. We are growing a network between our farms where we fill in for each other and grow the things that we can't do in our particular climates.

ACRES U.S.A.: How would you characterize your bottom line compared to that of conventional people trying to do the same thing your doing?

MOORE: I would characterize it in two ways. One, is we've probably reduced the likelihood, if not eliminated, that occasional bad year that comes. We've flattened out our bottom line to where it is more stable, more dependable. We've taken a lot of the risk out. When we go into the season, we know how many people we are growing for. We have a commitment from them to support us, so we have a steady cash flow. We have a stable cash flow through the year. We don't have big peaks and valleys that we have without this system. We don't have the risk of losing everything. But, we also don't have that occasional year where everything falls into place and you have a huge year. I would say it's more stable, more moderated in terms of the fluctuations.

ACRES U.S.A.: How do you recruit your shareholders in the first place?

MOORE: In my case, and what I would recommend for anyone attempting to start a CSA, is to try to identify an existing community of people who, for whatever reasons, are going to be interested in locally grown, fresh produce. In our case, it was a group of mostly Waldorf-schooled parents and children. The Waldorf school is an international, worldwide, educational movement started by Rudolf Steiner, who also gave rise to biodynamics. So, right off, we shared a philosophical common ground there. They knew we were biodynamic, and they had been asking me to grow more produce as it was. I turned to them when we started. I had been resisting the transition to a CSA, actually, for some time, and after this freeze I felt that it was time to talk. Contacting a health group or health professionals who are concerned about nutrition and diet would be a good place to start. Contacting vegetarian groups, church groups, some existing community that would have a common ground with locally grown, fresh organic produce is probably the best way to get started. Over the years, with our CSA members, the word of mouth has spread and increased our membership. Today, it is a diverse group.

ACRES U.S.A.: Nevertheless, trying to start from ground zero, by word of mouth, is pretty tough. Whereas if you could find a group of some sort who would take in and listen to the message, you might pick up a group of members right up front to get yourself started.

MOORE: Definitely. For the biodynamic growers, this connection with the Waldorf schools is particularly strong.

ACRES U.S.A.: It's a little like a chiropractor we knew, who didn't know how to get started down in the Tucson area. A suggestion was made to attend a dowsing meeting. The people at the meeting were all receptive to contact-reflex analyses. All of a sudden, he had a whole group of patients that he didn't know were in existence. I think the same general lesson probably would apply to your CSA start up.

MOORE: Three years ago, a local chiropractor heard about us and joined the CSA. He received his share for a year, and then he wanted to start a distribution site at his office which was in a community about 15 miles from us. It has really worked out well. It's been good for him and good for us. He expanded our base into a new community and gave us a larger group of people to work with. At the same time, he can show his patients that he is concerned about health and nutrition, and that he has available this food once a week. The health professionals and chiropractors, any health practioners who are concerned about nutrition and diet are a good group to make contact with.

ACRES U.S.A.: How do you communicate with these shareholders? Do you do that routinely with a newsletter or some other mechanism?

MOORE: Exactly. We have a nearly weekly newsletter. It's one page, front and back. We call it Harvest Notes. The content varies somewhat, but typically, it's a rundown on what's in that week's share, some recipes for the things that are more unusual, and something about that particular produce. The newletter helps a lot because we have certain events that come up. We have things we hear about that people might be interested in. It gives us a chance to keep in touch with our community. We have now about 250 shareholders, so a newsletter is a really great way to keep in touch with everybody.

ACRES U.S.A.: Do you follow the Whatley model, the idea of putting on the computer the names and birthdays of your customers? Do you go that far in your public relations program?

MOORE: Not nearly that far, though I keep a computerized database of all the members for bookkeeping purposes. Occasionally, I'll send out a postcard announcing an event, but nothing as extensive as he suggests. It's not a bad idea, though.

ACRES U.S.A.: Busy as you are, do you entertain a field day out at the farm?

MOORE: We try to do it twice a year, once in spring and once in fall. In fact, we have one coming up. I am hoping to have Peter Proctor here. It is still tentative. He is going to be on the West Coast for a couple of weeks, so we are hoping to bring him in for our farm day. We usually have very good attendance at those. It's intended for the CSA members to come who want to have a potluck picnic and a farm tour. The kids love it because it gives them a chance to pick eggs out of the chicken house, see the cows and get outside. It gives us a way to build that sense of community which is so important in the CSA concept.

ACRES U.S.A.: What you're saying is that you have found a way of making the farm a profitable operation. How big of a farm do you have?

MOORE: The whole farm is 60 acres. Some of it is steep hillside which is not in production. We have about 35 acres altogether that are in production. We have the equivalent of about ten to 12 acres that are in the vegetable pasture rotation. So, we have about six acres in vegetable production.

ACRES U.S.A.: You are able to keep this a solvent operation?

MOORE: Oh yes. In fact, our gross income from when we were only orchard ten years ago has risen about 3040% of what it was. Our net income has stabilized. We survived that freeze. That freeze represented about a quarter of a million in loss to us. We made it through that. We never had to turn to the USDA for farm welfare, and we didn't have to go to the bank. Basically, we turned to a community of local folks, and expressed to them a way to stabilize and make our operation sustainable by building on a base of local community that cares about the farm, and cares about where their food is coming from. I have to say, it has also been important to me as a farmer, because not only do the consumers know where their food is grown and how it is grown, now I know who is eating it. It completely changes my attitude because now there is a sense of connectedness and responsibility. It's not just grown and shipped off to be eaten.

ACRES U.S.A.: You're not growing bulk commodities for a market that doesn't return you as much money as you provided them in wealth?

MOORE: And it is not an anonymous market. It is not just lost out there. There is a sense of connectedness. Once we make a personal connection, a sense of responsibility is reinforced. That is what's missing for many growers, I think.

ACRES U.S.A.: And we are not even getting into the important aspect of this, which is the health profile.

MOORE: That is part of that responsibility. Not only our own health, but health of the soil, and of the earth.

ACRES U.S.A.: Do you ever get any complaints from people about the cost of eating properly?

MOORE: I wouldn't say complaints. The most common reason people drop out of the CSA is they say it's too much produce. What they really mean is that it is too much of the wrong thing. Produce that they are not accustomed to and that they can't accomodate in their diet; too many greens or too much whatever. For most people it requires some adjustment in their style of eating. The CSA needs people who enjoy preparing fresh produce and dealing with it at home. In the fast-paced culture that we live in, which is all about fast food, there are a lot of folks who say they would like to join the CSA, but the reality is they are eating out a lot during the week. They want something they can pop in the microwave. In terms of just flat out cost, no, we don't have complaints. I don't monitor the relative cost on a regular basis anymore. We have done some monitoring in the past and, generally, the cost is about the same. If we compare what we put in the sharebox, and what it would cost to buy the same thing at the grocery store, or the same thing at the farmers market, generally, we fall in the same range. If you were to buy produce at the grocery store, we're near the same cost. If you were to buy it at the farmer's market, we're probably a little bit higher.

ACRES U.S.A.: You can always respond with the idea that if you think it cost too much to eat healthy, you should find out what it costs to be sick.

MOORE: It's been real interesting. When we started the CSA, I was very hesitant to start. It took this disaster of the freeze to get me to really make the decision to try it. Now, there is no turning back for me. This is the way to go for a small to medium farm. I think it can be done on a larger scale, too. Although I don't know that a farmer would want to. It opens up so many possibilities such as urban agriculture, working in conjunction with restaurants. The variations on the theme are huge. The basic underlying idea is that we get back to the idea of regionally based or locally based food systems and a community of people connected to the farm. I think it begins to open up the possibility that being a farmer is a valued profession. When people begin to associate their health with the food they eat, where it is coming from, and that it is coming from a particular farm, they begin to recognize the farmer as an important person in their life. Once we begin to revalue farming, I think we'll begin to see young people come back into farming. This mass exodus from the farming profession will turn around.

For more information about the concept of Community Supported Agriculture and information on beginning and running a CSA, readers might want to consult Farms of Tomorrow, by Trauger M. Groh and Steven S.H. McFadden. The book is available from Acres U.S.A. for $12.00 (plus $1.20 shipping and handling; $2.40 international, U.S. funds). Credit card orders can call tollfree at 1-800-355-5313.