Bedford, Kentucky, about 40 minutesrneast of Louisville. Today his customersrnwill take home cucumbers, a small watermelon,rnzucchini, potatoes, chard,rncorn, onions, basil, spinach, tomatoes,rnand either peppers or an eggplant.rnNancy Toole has been one of Steve’srnsubscribers for three of the four yearsrnhe’s run his food guild. She indicatesrnthat someone looking for organicallyrngrown produce in Louisville would bernhard put to find very much of it. (Therernis a food coop downtown, and a naturalrnfood store with two East End locations,rnbut their produce selection is limited.)rnBesides, she says, she likes “having a connectionrnwith the person who grows yourrnvegetables. You don’t feel that whenrnyou shop at a grocery store. And we allrnlike Steve so much.”rnAn hour’s drive to the north, LynnernDickey and her family live on a 106-acrernfarm near Salem, hidiana. Her placernwas once an Amish homestead and arnyou-pick blueberry farm. She still enjoysrnthe blueberries, and Amish still livernin the neighborhood—I pass two ofrntheir children on the road, who wave as Irndrive by.rnThis is Lynne’s second year of organicrnsubscription farming. She startedrnslowly with five customers in 1992—rn”people I knew and who were willing tornsupport me,” she says—and grew to 16rnfamilies this summer, customers shernfound through word of mouth. Lynnerndelivers twice a week: to families in New-rnAlbany, Indiana, and Louisville on Tuesdays,rnand to others in Salem and nearbyrnMadison on Fridays. She differs fromrnSteve in that she offers home delivery ofrna 48-quart cooler’s worth of vegetablesrnand fruit. Pointing to a row of whiternhalf-runner beans, she adds that she’llrngrow to order any variety a customer requests.rnLynne charges half her money uprnfront in the spring, and that buys herrnseeds, soil amendments, and supplies forrnthe greenhouse. Her second payment inrnJuly is really “my pay,” she says, and itrngives her a mid-season psychologicalrnboost. For Lynne, one of the biggest advantagesrnof CSA is that she receivesrnmoney up front, right when her costsrnare greatest. She likes not having to gorninto debt, growing a crop that’s alreadyrnsold, and having personal contact withrnher customers. For her, CSA has norndownside.rn”I know how many people I’m growingrnfor, and I know how much land I’llrnneed to grow for a certain amount ofrnpeople, so there’s no waste,” Lvnne says.rnIn years past she grew market crops thatrnmay or may not have sold, just a few varietiesrnthat had to be picked all at oncernand had to be sold as soon as thev werernpicked. “It’s security, being able to havernpeople invest for the season. I really appreciaternbeing able to grow for peoplernlike this.”rnThe concept of community supportedrnfarming in this country is generally creditedrnto Jan Vandcr Tuin, a Vermonterrnwho in the early 80’s came across eonrmunityrnsupported farms in Switzerlandrnand who founded a cooperative of hisrnown near Zurich soon thereafter. Backrnin the United States, Vander Tuin spreadrnthe word, and in 1985 a group includingrnJohn Root, Jr., Robyn Van En, CharlotternZaneechia, and Hugh Ratcliffe sold 30rnshares in an apple orchard in westernrnMassachusetts. That next spring theyrnleased land from Van En and brokernground for vegetables, selling shares to 50rnfamilies in the area.rnAccording to Van Â¥.n, between 200rnand 400 CSA farms exist today fromrnNew England to Texas to the WestrnCoast. (I ler estimate may be low; a KentuckyrnCSA conference held last winterrndrew 67 people.) Around the countryrnthese community farms are organizedrnalong various lines. Some share landrnamong group members and offer producernon a take-as-you-need basis to therncommunitv, including poor families whorncan’t support the farm cooperative financially.rnOthers offer a set range ofrnshare prices to shareholders and ask themrnto contribute based on their ability tornpay. Many groups, like Steve’s, meetrnyearly to discuss the season and the budget.rnBut they all share the same personalrnlink between farmer and consumer,rnbetween locally grown food and its market,rnthat is the core of the CSA idea.rnSome sec communitv supported agriculturernas a potential saviour of the smallrnfarm. With its emphasis on organic soilrnenrichment, marketing without a middleman,rnand selling locally grown producernto a nearby market, CSA offers thernsmall grower a simpler alternative to traditionalrnagriculture, with its dependencernon heavy machinery and chemicals.rnCSA farms require little land; Steve believesrnhe could feed 100 families on thernapproximatelv four acres he cultivatesrnfor vegetables. Capital expenditures arernlow because large vegetable gardens dornnot require large pieces of equipment.rnEliot Coleman, whose The New OrganicrnGrower is a comprehensive guidebookrnfor CSA farmers, estimates that a farmerrninitially needs about $6,000 for tools andrna rototiller. Compare that to the $14,000rnyou can easily spend on a reconditionedrntractor.rnIn this area at least, the cost to CSArnshareholders is also low. This yearrnSteve’s guild ran $385 for 35 weeks orrn$11 a week for a half-bushel of produce.rnLynne Dickey charged $285 for 20rnweeks, or $14.25 a week, for a large coolerrndelivered to the home. Both farmersrnoffer varieties (of lettuce and corn especially)rnthat you cannot buy in a groeervrnstore, which makes it hard to comparernprices. But even a rough comparisonrnshows that week to week they are sellingrnat or below supermarket prices—andrntheir food is locally grown, fresh, andrnfree of pesticides.rnSteve bases his subscription fee notrnon market prices but on what it costsrnhim to grow his vegetables. He actuallyrnpublishes his budget, from seeds to insurancernto manure. Last year his expensesrnran to a little under $10,000, halfrnof that for part-time help, leaving him anrnincome for his own labor and land use ofrn$19,000. That’s not a princely sum byrncity starrdards, but it’s a livable income,rnand Steve supplenrents it with tobaccornand cattle.rnAs he spends 50-60 hours per weekrnduring the spring and summer on hisrnvegetables alorre, Steve works very hardrnfor what he earns. But then farming hasrnalways been a low-paying job. Its benefitsrnare not monetary, though they are nornless inrportant; independence, self-sufficiency,rnand for organic growers, the satisfactionrnthat comes from improvingrnthe soil. Steve is the third generation ofrnSmiths to farm this valley. Sure, he says,rnat times he’s thought of doing somethingrnelse. “But I alwavs wanted tornfarm,” he savs and grins.rnAs the government reduces thernamount of tobacco farmers are allowedrnto grow and sell, traditional farmers inrnKentucky who depend on tobacco for arnsignificant part of their livelihood willrnhave to find a way to replace that income.rnSteve is encouraging them tornconsider some kind of community supportedrnvegetable growing. Organic farmingrnis not as foreign a concept as it usedrnto be, arrd Steve savs this year alone he’srnhad a number of traditional farmers droprnby to see what he does. “I was a traditionalrnfarmer, as traditional as vou canrn46/CHRONICLESrnrnrn