CSA 1.0.

Continuing our theme of How Things Change, an early look at the now-burgeoning local-food movement in Indiana, back when you had to put “community-supported agriculture” in quotes, so readers would know it was this crazy new idea. I looked up this CSA’s URL with some trepidation, expecting to find it long-gone, but still it thrives! Good news. This was originally published in May 2003.

Jeff Hawkins dropped me a note a few years ago, after I wrote something about food. I think I talked about how hard you have to look to find organic this and free-range that; he sent me a brochure for the Hawkins Family Farm.

It was an experiment, he said, in “raising some food where we know what it is and what’s in it.” The first year, he bought 25 chickens and raised them the old-fashioned way – under a blue North Manchester sky, where they were allowed to scratch the dirt and chase bugs and be chickens.

“My daughter named them all,” he said. Typical first-year mistake for chickens destined for the pot.

But the experiment went fine otherwise, and the next year he bought a few more, and started selling them.

“The old-timers said (the poultry) tasted the way they used to taste,” he said. He began to suspect he might be on to something.

He is. This year the brochure arrived right on time, at the beginning of the growing season. But the Hawkins Family Farm is no longer a health spa for chickens. They’ve added beef, turkeys, fresh produce and a plan – “community-supported agriculture.”

Today, in addition to direct-sale poultry, the farm operates on a share system. For $1,080, shareholders get a quarter carcass of beef, 25 chickens, fresh produce for 22 weeks, soup beans, a Thanksgiving turkey and “extras” – flowers, experimental crops and the like. All the meat is free-range and humanely slaughtered. Fifty shares are available, minus the five he will tithe to local food banks.

“It’s become a calling,” said Hawkins, who quit his job as pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Manchester to run the farm full time.

He’s also using the farm as the basis for a new ministry, aimed at the well-being of clergy. About a dozen ministers meet monthly on the farm for a “day away” of work and discussion – a working retreat for personal reflection.

Hawkins believes we spend a lot of time talking about how the hand of God moves in the world, but too little actually going out to see it at work. He found, with two teenage children, that doing farm chores together has a way of loosening restraints on conversation. And a day on the farm, away from one’s usual work and concerns, “connects us to the natural world” in ways other activities don’t, he said.

Nevertheless, it’s not all blue skies and fresh breezes.

“This is teaching me a number of things,” he said. “It’s teaching me a whole lot about trust, and to learn to ask for help.” When you’re an unemployed preacher embarking on an experiment in community agriculture, you need a lot of both.

It’s not unheard of. No less an entity than the U.S. Department of Agriculture recognizes community-supported agriculture as a viable economic model for small farms. And Hawkins doesn’t discount the hunger some townfolks have for a slower pace of living, as well as farm-raised food. Shareholders may be asked to pick their own produce, which saves labor and assures customers of the freshest possible product, among other things.

“(Wife) Kathy plans to have the porch swing ready and a pitcher of iced tea waiting for you when you come to the farm,” the farm’s Web site says. (Yes, Web site. Even back-to-the-land folks have to live in the modern world, and the farm’s place in it is at www.hawkinsfamilyfarm.com.) Come, pick, reconnect – that’s the message.

And get a chicken that tastes the way they used to. Not a bad deal.

Posted at 12:30 am in Ancient archives |

19 responses to “CSA 1.0.”

  1. Dexter said on June 11, 2013 at 1:13 am

    I have heard about this place for years, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Tarrytown, New York. At least look at the slideshow of farm scenes; they’re comforting. Farm fields to plates, all in one experience.

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  2. Suzanne said on June 11, 2013 at 7:58 am

    I love that there are now all kinds of farmer’s markets cropping up in our area. When we moved here to the far reaches of rural Indiana, we were always amazed at how few roadside produce stands there were. It seems crazy that we were surrounded by people with gardens who surely had extra produce, but we’d end up buying what we didn’t grow at the grocery store. Now, we have farmer’s market choices!

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  3. Julie Robinson said on June 11, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Jeff Hawkins spends his winters going to church gatherings and does a lot of workshops for pastors, including a couple our daughter has attended. He’s gaining a reputation as a younger version of Wendell Berry, for those of you familiar with Berry’s writings. We’ve been to the farm for their Friday night pizza and had some of their meats, and they are all wonderfully flavorful. (Also wonderfully pricey.) The pizza is baked outside in a brick oven and while you’re waiting you can wander around the flower and vegetable gardens, sit down and chat, or snuggle with one of the friendly farm cats. Take your own chairs, drinks, and eating utensils, and be prepared to pack them back out with you, since they don’t allow you to leave your trash. It makes for a lovely evening.

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  4. adrianne said on June 11, 2013 at 8:57 am

    I love CSAs, and have been heartened to see their expansion here in the lovely Hudson Valley. We’ve been members of two CSAs, and our current membership in Phillies Bridge Farm entitles us to a weekly share of veggies and fruit for six months for the low, low price of $300. That’s a bargain. And I can buy farm-raised chickens and eggs for extra anytime I want.

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  5. Jeff said on June 11, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Mmmm, Wendell Berry.

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  6. alex said on June 11, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Dingell Berry. (‘Cuz he’s hung on so long, doncha know.)

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  7. brian stouder said on June 11, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Well, apropos of not much, let me just say that we have many agricultural customers come in to the sales counter area where I work, and the name Nall is upon a surprising number of them (I can think of three, including a fellow who was just here this morning).

    And, a colleague who lives in Huntington, is also a Nall. We don’t have a bumper-crop of ‘em, but they are hearty perennials who pop up with regularity, around here

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  8. brian stouder said on June 11, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Alex, thanks for sharing that great article on Dingell. I was struck by the way he was summarily dumped from his committee chairmanship as the D’s cleaned the House in ’08; and how he simply continued on.

    Maybe someday the R’s will clean their House, too, eh? Hell, I’d settle for a little de-Issa (and I bet national R’s like Governor Jindal would, too)

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  9. Prospero said on June 11, 2013 at 11:50 am

    We buy beef from these guys, and boy is it good. Came across them at the Bluffton, SC farmer’s market, which has a pub with an assortment of 50 kinds of beer and ale on tap right in the middle of it, and not a few Bar-B-Q stands. I am sure the feeding regimen, home grown peanut hay, and the comfortable, happy lives these beeves lead has a lot to do with the quality of the steaks and roasts.

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  10. Prospero said on June 11, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Alfred E. Jindal says “What? Me worry?” Issa and the GOPers may be the most inept scandal mongers ever. It all just turns to garbage when exposed to the light of day. Maybe it’s because Issa was a car thief, chopshop operator and arsonist for profit before he went to the US House of Representatives. Who let his brother take the rap for him and go to prison. What a guy. Honest as the day is long. He did warn he would pull this anti-productive bullshit when he was appointed to chair his committee.

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  11. coozledad said on June 11, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    This is pretty handy: http://www.localharvest.org/

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  12. Prospero said on June 11, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    This is an interview with Mark Knopler’s sidekick Richard Bennett. He also played on Guitar Town, the purely great Steve Earl album. Mostly interesting for players of stringed instruments, but there is a terrific music set link at the bottom, with a lot of superb steel guitar, that I think just about anybody would like. Farmer’s market music, sorta.

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  13. Deborah said on June 11, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Never joined a CSA but wanted to, just couldn’t find one that was convenient. There’s a great farmers market in Santa Fe near us and a couple of really good ones in Chicago near where we live there. I don’t usually buy meat there, but then I don’t buy much meat anywhere.

    We have three fires around us now, a new one started northeast of us, still far away but we can clearly see it across the mountains. Started by lightning yesterday afternoon, scary looking but not that big. Yet. The rainy season can’t start soon enough it’s very hot and dry.

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  14. basset said on June 11, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    I know someone here in Nashville who played with Earle around the time of that record and quit soon after… said Earle was going to get in trouble and he didn’t want to be there when it happened. Which it did.

    Pros, Gibson has some nerve talking about those old Epiphones… (reason: one instrument company, Gibson, bought another, Epiphone, carried on the quality for awhile but now the name is applied to their line of Asian knockoffs.)

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  15. Prospero said on June 11, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    basset: So Steve Earle is beyond redemption despite getting himself clean and sober and back on his feet and making landmark albums, like Copperhead Road, which you probably dislike. Too much like rock ‘n’ roll. He also wrote a fine novel and an excellent volume of poetry. All in all, your derogatory comments about Steve Earle seem kinda gratuitous. Did he piss in your Cap’n Crunch one morning? There is currently no better songwriter in Tennessee, and that is a fact Jack. I sincerely doubt there is anybody in Nashville that wouldn’t be happy to get an invitation to play on a Steve Earle record these days, including your friend. And that was Richard Bennett talking about old Epiphones, not some disembodied “Gibson”. I figure a guy with his professional pedigree probably has a more worthwhile opinion than yours. And Epiphones have been Gibson knockoffs since before I was a teenager. Long time ago, Chief. Like Fender had Kalamazoo. To this day, the Epi Les Paul copies are very good guitars. Don’t have an opinion about basses. Only one I ever bought is a gorgeous Dean acoustic/electric with stunning tone and sustain that I play lead parts on, to occasionally pleasing effect. I also have a Jazzmaster 5-string an ex-girlfriend gave me, but I’d like to change the neck out for fretless with rosewood.

    And that silly and bigoted comment about Asian knockoffs? Who makes the modern versions of Strads and Amatis? Why, Yamaha, that’s who.

    I posted that Richard Bennett link because I found his lack of pretension refreshing and his knowledge of Hawai’an guitar fascinating. Mark Knopfler is a genius, so if he thinks this guy is worth listening to, I’m pretty sure he is. How this engendered “Get off my lawn” enmity, that is entirely beyond me.

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  16. basset said on June 11, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    Well, it didn’t, actually, but if I was as negative as you I’d probably see it that way. You may have a future in talk radio, if you can stay sober long enough. Ignorant, confrontational, and obnoxious, perfect combination.

    And… Gibson made Kalamazoos. Chief.

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  17. Bitter Scribe said on June 11, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    Who makes the modern versions of Strads and Amatis? Why, Yamaha, that’s who.

    Actually, nobody, that’s who. There’s a reason violinists cherish Stradivari 276 years after the man’s death, and it’s not respect for the past. It’s because practically no one has figured out how to make violins, violas and cellos that sound so good since.

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  18. basset said on June 11, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Exactly. That, and the effects of age on the wood, the glue, and other materials… same thing with guitars, on a lesser scale, and that’s why old Gibsons and Martins cost so much. Even my 1972 Yamaha sounds a lot better than a new one.

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  19. Bob (not Greene) said on June 11, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    Bassett, I’m with you; the classic Epiphones — pre Gibson — were top of the line instruments. Those old Deluxe and Emperor archtops rivaled anything Ginson produced. Don’t get me wrong, I love Gibsons. I own two, one of which is my favorite guitar. But I’d love to have an old Epi archtop. And, yes, Kalamazoo was a Gibson imprint.

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