No denying that 2020 was a dreadful year. But the old expression every cloud has a silver lining has special value on the first day of the new year 2021.
According to information on the website knowyourphrase.com, the two-word phrase silver lining has been used for over 380 years (as far back as John Milton’s usage in 1634). But the earliest usage of the modern wording in full was not until shortly after the American Civil War in a book by P.T. Barnum in 1869, where he wrote: “‘Every cloud, says the proverb, has a silver lining, and so I did not despair.'”
For this local and organic food advocate, the silver lining in 2020 was the wonderful development that after many years, Roxbury Farm in Kinderhook (Columbia County) in upstate New York sold out all of its 1,000 CSA (community supported agriculture) seasonal farm shares. Sisters Jody Bolluyt and Keri Latiolais, who are the current owners of Roxbury Farm, worked hard to achieve this success, a most remarkable achievement during the year of dread.
Similarly, Boston-based The Carrot Project (which works with farms in New England and the Hudson Valley to build financial management skills to help family farms, growing diversified crops, succeed) reports that farmers Steve and Sarah Murray, who operate Heart Beets Farm in Berkley (Bristol County), Massachusetts, to protect themselves and their customers made the risky decision to close their farm stand and instead to double the number of its CSA farms shares for the 2020 season to 210, which all sold out.
For a dozen years, I’ve enjoyed a farm share from Roxbury Farm with about 75 other households: Each week for 24 weeks, the farm makes a delivery to a neighbor’s home where shares can be picked up by Albany area residents. And Roxbury Farm for the first time even sold out all of its winter shares.
In the course of the winter in the Hudson Valley, the farm delivers a 35-pound box of local and organic produce to each of its winter shareholders at the neighborhood pickup site, during the first weeks of December, January and February. These winter boxes of local and organic food are Exhibit 1 to show that it is possible to eat with the seasons even in a snowy clime.
The CSA farm model provides one important way for a nation’s farm system to provide a thriving livelihood for farmers and farmworkers, environmental protection and healthy food. This most certainly is not a pipe-dream but is taking place now, albeit for too few consumers. These italicized words are from a must-read, recent op-ed (Goodbye, U.S.D.A., Hello, Department of Food and Well-Being) by Ricardo Salvador, Director of the Food & Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Mark Bittman, who is currently on the faculty of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.
Salvador and Bittman propose a way forward for American agriculture which deserves wide-spread support by all who support a healthy diet rooted in eating locally-grown and organic. They ask the new Secretary of Agriculture to take these steps in the new year:
(1) Lead the fight against corporations that have created a toxic food environment and support groups building healthful alternatives;
(2) Champion unity among farmers, rural people and urban advocates for racial and economic justice against the common enemy of consolidation and concentration of wealth;
(3) Use the Department of Agriculture’s vaunted research and extension capacity to support a food system that can rebuild rural economies, regenerate ecological capital, mitigate climate change and provide nourishing food for all.
All the above is a mighty task, but prompts the use of another old-time expression, hope springs eternal. I never knew that that this phrase is from Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Man and is “quite cynical” in its full form since Pope suggests you never actually get there while you keep on hoping for the best.
Nonetheless, even if we don’t reach the goals proposed by Salvador and Bittman in the short term, we’ll still be on the right path to a better future. And making a New Year’s resolution to become a CSA farm shareholder is an easy way for a household to join in this quest.
Onward into 2021!
(Frank W. Barrie, 1/1/21)