An Indigo Paper on Industrial Ecology

Creating systems solutions for sustainable development through industrial ecology

Community Supported Agriculture: Full Belly Farm and Tekei

Full Belly farm  illustrates highly productive organic farming with most of crop output marketed directly to consumers and generating many social, and environmental benefits. Although farmers in many regions do not have California’s year round field production, they could utilize greenhouses using energy and nutrients from manure processing in order to approach this level of productivity.

Four partners operate the 200 acre Full Belly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) organic farm in Copay Valley, northwest of Sacramento, California. The farm supplies a wide variety of fruit, herbs, flowers, vegetables and animal products to 600 families each week (through drop-sites in urban neighborhoods) as well as to three farmers markets, organic wholesale distributors, stores, restaurants and a clinic for low-income women with cancer. Several restaurants put the farm’s name on their menu when they are using an item from it: "Full Belly Farm Yellow Finn potato salad." At the height of a season, costs for the organic produce often rival the cost of non-organic food from supermarkets.

Soil fertility is maintained through cover crops, composting and pasturing of farm animals. The farm has a flock of 100 ewes who usually drop at least 100 lambs each Spring. A few cows and a flock of chickens complete the animal population. Full Belly's grows and markets over 80 different crops; uses cover crops that fix nitrogen and provide organic matter for the soil; and plants habitat areas for beneficial insects and wildlife. This set of strategies allows the farm to integrate farm production with longer-term environmental goals

The farm hires 25-30 full-time farm workers (mostly immigrant workers form Mexico) and 4-5 interns year round. Employees receive compensation above the usual wages paid to farm workers and the farm partners have helped several finance their own homes in California.

The environmental benefits from Full Belly Farm's mode of operation include reduction of demand on non-renewable petrochemical resources; elimination of pollution from chemical pesticides and herbicides; recycling of nearly all farm "wastes"; preservation of biodiversity in farm plants and animals, regeneration and preservation of soil; preservation of wildlife habitats through hedgerows and native plantings; and enhanced healthfulness of diet for consumers.

Fully Belly offers many social and economic benefits for the local and regional community. Its style of farming and marketing strengthens the connections between food, land and people. It provides higher productivity and steady employment to a much larger group of employees than industrialized farming on a similar acreage would offer. (Up to 50 people, including children, are supported on 200 acres!) Full Belly contributes to a support network of other organic farms in the area, exchanging surplus crops for marketing.

Many organic farmers in the US and Canada are working in the model of Community Supported Agriculture that Full Belly reflects, demonstrating the business, social, and ecological value of organic farming. (Based on personal communications from Full Belly Farm partner, Judith Redmond and )

The Tekei System

Japanese organic food movements have formed a similar system for consumer support of organic farming, called the Tekei system, linking producer groups in villages and consumer groups in the cities. The producer groups  pack up their products for collection by the consumer groups. This is an organized, long-term relationship. There is  good cooperation between the two: if the producers have too much cucumber they inform the consumers to eat  more of that kind. They also invite consumers to visit their farms and work with them as a farm vacation. This  innovation in the  marketing structure is a beneficial model for the future for domestic marketing structures.

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