A Brief History of the Farm
The Community Farm began with a series of conversations and meetings between Trauger Groh, Lincoln Geiger and Anthony Graham in the fall of 1985. Many others in the local community became actively involved as we moved towards our first season. At that time Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) did not exist in the USA and the three farmers were in contact with a group of people in Western Massachusetts who were interested in similar concepts. As a result of all this activity two farms began their first full season in 1986. They were Indian Line Farm in Egremont, MA and Temple Wilton Community Farm in Wilton NH.
Since that time many thousands of CSA farms have come into existence, not only in this country but all over the world – the growth has occurred at an exponential rate.
Most CSA’s are seasonal and most have a fixed price for a fixed ‘share in the harvest’.
From the beginning we took a different direction. For one thing we had a herd of milking cows so we knew that our members would be coming to get milk throughout the year. Thus we decided to grow large quantities of storage vegetables in order to provide produce throughout the winter. Secondly, we decided to sever the direct relationship between the money needed to operate the farm and the produce that comes through the bounty of nature. In order to do this we asked the whole membership to meet the proposed budget by having each family pledge to contribute as much as they could manage. The farmers would then set out the produce so that members could take what they needed rather than taking a specific portion of the harvest.
This system has worked well for us since that time. Over the past ten years we have also managed to secure land and buildings – something that eluded us for the first 15 years of our existence. This has greatly strengthened the farm and provides a foundation that will enable us to move into the future.
Below is a document that was originally written by Trauger Groh at the inception of the farm, describing what we called our ‘Aims and Intentions’. This explains some of the ideas that motivated us when the farm began.
AIMS AND INTENTIONS
The community farm was born out of the desire of a group of farmers and gardeners to unite their efforts and their land into one organism in order to serve the local community with biodynamically grown food. The first meetings took place in February and March of 1986 and out of these came forth some basic concepts, aims and principles:
Farmers – By accepting responsibility for the agricultural use of the land, all members of our Community Farm become ‘farmers’. Either they enact their right to farm directly, by actually planning and doing the farm work, or they let those members who have the time and skills to do so, farm in their name. Those members who do the planning and farm work on an ongoing basis and as a main occupation, are called the Active Farmers.
Landholders – The landholders give the members of the Community Farm the right to use their farmland and buildings. All costs of the property (land taxes, insurance, depreciation, and repairs) are to be carried by the Community Farm.
Aims of the Farmers:
1) Spiritual Aims – To make the annual renewal of life on earth possible, in such a way that both the individual and humanity at large are free to discover their spiritual destination.
To make land-use and working of the land a way of self-education: an education in the sense that a better understanding of nature can lead to a better understanding of ourselves.
To create the farm organism in such a way that it is made available therapeutically to those who suffer from damages created by civilization and from other handicaps that need special care.
2) Legal Aims – To make access to farm land available for as many people as possible through the use of covenants and easements, which protect the land from development in perpetuity. We also aim to create forms of cooperation that allow us to separate the financial needs of the active farmers and the farm from the economic value of the food.
3) Economic Aims – To create a farm that is, as far as possible, a self-contained natural organism, such that with the help of its own natural ecology it reproduces itself better and better, becomes more and more diversified, and needs less and less input of substances and energy from the outside. This will also allow human labor to be used as efficiently as possible. Individual profit through farming is not an economic aim of the farmers.
The farmers agree on certain principles to make cooperation in the agricultural community possible:
1) All farmers (members) are individually responsible for their actions and the consequences thereof. To enable others to help them in their initiatives, each farmer (member) must let the others know what they intend to do.
2) By taking initiatives, each farmer generates expenses. The expenses generated by each farmer increase the total costs for all the others. Therefore, the individual, in cooperation with other individuals, has to declare what costs they project to fulfill their initiative. The combined projections of those who intend to spend money make up the annual budget. This budget has to be approved by the assembly of farmers (all members). Once the budget is approved, the individual farmer is free to spend the amount of money they have in the approved annual budget. Every farmer who spends money agrees to keep books and records of their expenditures. The farmers agree on a scheme of categories in which the expenses are accounted for. This record will show the extent to which the economic aims have been achieved.
3) All farmers (members) agree to share the cost of the annual budget. Any member can leave the Community Farm at the end of the year, when they have paid their part of the annual cost. If they need to leave before the end of the year, they can either pay out the rest of their pledge, or find another member to replace them.
4) Every farmer gives all the other farmers the right to substitute for them in their work if they fail to do or complete something they have taken on.
5) It is understood that when the cooperation between the farmers is working, fewer goods and services will be brought into the farm organism by individuals at the expense of all the others.
6) It is our goal to be as self sufficient as possible with our labor.
7) The motivation to do things on the farm should always be directed by our spiritual and nutritional aims, rather than by our financial needs.
The following statement offers a further definition of the organization of the Temple-Wilton Community Farm:
The Temple-Wilton Community Farm is a free association of individuals, which aims to make possible a farm that provides life-giving food for the local community and respects the natural environment. The members are economically organized in households. Out of their household income they cover the operational costs of the farm. They are not legally connected and have, therefore, no legal claims on each other.
- If a member does not do the farm work they promised to do
- If a member does not pay the share of the farm costs that they said they would pay
- If a member harvests more produce for their household than is socially responsible
- If a member does not come to meetings to discuss their needs, and the needs of others in the community
- If a member works on the farm without first coming to an understanding with the other farmers
In short, if any of us goes against their own expressed will and intentions: the others can have no claim against them. The only thing that the others can do, in these cases, is to jump in to help prevent an eventual loss.
Everything concerning the farm originates from the constantly renewed free will of the participants.
The following formula has allowed the farm to operate smoothly since its inception:
All unprocessed farm produce (vegetables and milk) is available to members free of charge, if they meet the proposed budget through contributions over the course of one year. This enables us to sever the direct link between food and money.
Pledges are based on the ability to pay, rather than on the amount of food to be taken. Having made a contribution, the member is free to take as much food as is needed, depending on availability.
Processed goods (yogurt, cheese, meat, bread, etc.) and eggs, are sold at a price that will enable the processing costs to be covered.