Farmers: Anne Elder and Paul Bantle
Season: May-November, about a 26 week season.
Pick-up: Wednesday or Saturday at the farm
Cost: Sliding scale: $700-$1800 (target average $1175)
Cost per week: $27-$69/week
Growing practice: Biodynamic/Demeter Certified
Work requirement: 15 hours/season (or additional $125)
Plus: Honey, flowers, herbs, straw
“Tending the earth and knowing that it’s getting healthier is a wonderful thing. Because we have animals we can practice a true biodynamic system and I love that we practice biodynamic agriculture,” says farmer Anne Elder. She continues “One of my favorite things is to see a child start eating this food, and watching them year after year, seeing them grow healthier and stronger and knowing I’m a part of that.”
Anne Elder has been a farmer at Community Farm of Ann Arbor (CFAA) with her partner, Paul Bantle, since 1989. Community Farm was the first CSA farm in our area, and one of the very first in the country to be developed around the CSA model. The farm’s colorful and heartwarming history, involving the members holding bake sales over 10 years to raise the money to purchase the development rights for the land, is just one of the ways in which Community Farm is unique.
Community Farm is among the few CSA farms that practice the original “shareholder” (rather than “subscription”) model where the members themselves (rather than the farmers) own the farm, take responsibility for its mission, and set the price of the shares. Elder explains “the farmers are hired by our membership and paid by our members, they (the members) decide the budget and the finances of everything at the farm. That’s an incredible empowerment to give to people.”
She continues “Our meetings are based on consensus; we strive for everyone to have agreement...We move about change pretty slowly. It drives some people crazy, but helps with keeping the farm very stable. There is a big effort to keep the love force very strong on the farm and it’s very successful.”
Their intention toward healing the earth is among the reasons for practicing the biodynamic method of agriculture in which they are certified. According to Demeter USA, the US branch of the international Biodynamic certifying organization, biodynamic standards include and are stricter than those for organic certification, and “involve managing a farm within the context of the principles of a living organism....Fertility and feed arise out of the recycling of the organic material the system generates. Avoidance of pest species is based on biological vigor and its intrinsic biological and genetic diversity. Water is efficiently cycled through the system... An important environmental value of Biodynamic farming is that it does not depend on the mining of the earth’s natural resource base. Instead it emphasizes contributing to it. As such, it is a farming philosophy that results in one of the lightest carbon footprints of any agricultural method.”
As part of that philosophy, Community Farm recently converted one of its mid-century tractors to solar power. They continue to look for ways to incorporate wind and solar power for the farm.
Most of the CSA farms in our area have a distribution season from 18-22 weeks long, but Community Farm’s season is longer - about 26 weeks. Farmer Anne Elder says that members get between 1-4 grocery bags of food every week and that most shares are split between 2 families. Members come to the farm to pick up their food each week, which Elder says is also a great opportunity to get more u-pick vegetables and to run into friends. Elder remarks that they want to foster that connection and that “we try to make it so people can just come and lay a blanket down and take nap. Sometimes we’ve had people with cancer come out out, set up a lawn chair and heal in the love of the farm. Kids just come and run around and become familiar with the smells, sounds, and sights of farming. Knowing the smell of good soil. That’s a real deep seed in a being.”