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By Ruth Knight

While studying in Holland last year I talked with some farmers who were involved in the abonnementen farming system. In the Netherlands this translates to subscription farming. Under this system subscribers or members make a yearly or seasonal contract to purchase an agreed amount of produce from the farm on a weekly basis. Produce is then harvested once or twice a week and delivered to distribution points within groups of members. Some agreements allow members to participate in the farm work or distribution as an alternative to paying. All of these farms were Biodynamic.

There are about ten or twelve of these abonnementen farms in the Netherlands and I visited four of them and talked with members about the benefits of this idea. The responses were very encouraging. Apart from having the benefits of fresh produce at low prices, members had the opportunity to enjoy a recreational and educational experience. They learned from the farmer the relationship between soil health and plant health. Some people didn't think the farm had any influence on them, others found that the experience was very empowering. People were encouraged that others were acting in a conscious way toward the environment. Others who were very discouraged with the mainstream agriculture and its environmental damage, recognized that they could do something positive in the other direction. Once the members had the produce in their hands and had a chance to taste it and share it with their families, they felt very positive. They felt more assured about the practicality of ecological farming and of Their having the power to do something positive for the environment.

In Ontario there are already a number of Community Supported Agriculture projects. Environmental awareness is growing along with the need to connect different social networks together. This approach has the potential to fulfil these needs as well as provide nutrition and mutual support to all the parties involved.

Copyright 1993 Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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