Our farm’s community is worth being proud of

Last year our Community Shared Agriculture farm celebrated its tenth anniversary.

For ten years now Root Radical farm has been growing fresh, seasonal, local vegetables.  For ten years we’ve delivered those vegetables, each week, to hundreds of families in Kingston and area through the Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) model. We’re nearly full for our eleventh season, which begins in early June.

Over the last ten years farming has become both easier and harder, in different ways.

Our farming lives have been made easier, in particular, by many things we have built in the last ten years.

Like an ample greenhouse that allows us to grow strong and healthy seedlings to transplant in the field, and to ripen delicious tomatoes and peppers well into the fall. A large walk-in refrigerator we use on harvest days ensure that the vegetables we harvest in the morning are just as fresh when we deliver them to our members in the afternoon.

Not everything we’ve built has been physical infrastructure. We’ve also built the health of the soil. In organic farming, we can’t depend on fertilizers or pesticides. And by building up our topsoil (adding compost, encouraging microbial life, encouraging the soil to produce its own nutrients) we grow strong plants that are more able to fight off insects and disease.

The health of people starts with the food we eat; and the health of the food we eat starts with the health of our soil.

But other things have made farming harder over the last ten years. Our changing climate is the worst of these.

The heavy rainfall of the last month has made planting difficult at the same time as it has caused flooding and record high water levels for Lake Ontario.

And that’s only the latest in a series of unfortunate weather records broken in the last 16 months. Last year—globally the the warmest year in history—brought a record drought that withered plants in the field. And that February’s “snowmageddon” saw a record one-day snowfall that crushed our greenhouse. (We rebuilt it.)

As a farmer, these climate change trends are terrifying. Because they are almost certainly going to get worse, year after year, for the rest of our lives.

The blunt truth is that individuals can’t solve vast, systemic problems like global warming. But communities can. Individual actions may by a drop in the bucket, but community action makes a difference.

That’s the thing I’m most proud of about our farm: the community we’ve built. People who join our farm as members get delicious and healthy food for their families, sure, but it’s more than that.

They choose to be part of a community that is trying to solve big problems like climate change by supporting sustainable farming. They choose to spend their food dollars to support fair work for local farmers, instead of giving their dollars to vast corporations that exploit migrant workers. They choose to build a connection with the land through a community farm because they want to understand where their food is coming from.

And many of them participate because they want to model those values for their children. They don’t only want to make sure their kids have healthy food, but to take community action so that those kids grow up in a world that is getting better instead of getting worse.

I’m proud of those people, and of that community. And maybe it’s a community that you’ll choose to be a part of.

Aric McBay is a farmer and author.