Edible Jersey Spring 2011 : Page 22
22 spring 2011 edible jersey Photographs: Dana Reed to this place in search of fresh vegetables, it’s the “Community timescales, and weighty questions about what it means to be human. Supported Garden at Genesis Farm” you’re looking for, an independ-But in the end, the message is a simple one: “If the Earth goes down, ent though affiliated operation. It’s just up the hill. you go down with it.” Sister Miriam was instrumental in the creation of the In the span of just a few thousands years, teaches Sister Miriam, Community Supported Garden, as was a Swiss farmer named Heinz humans have polluted the waters, altered the global climate and driv-Thomet. Thomet arrived in Blairstown in 1984, bringing with him en countless species to extinction. A big part of the problem, she the teachings of biodynamic agriculture. Biodynamic farmers view says, is that all along industrialized Western civilization has believed their farms as living organisms in which everything is interconnect-the wrong story—the one in which we can take anything we want ed—a philosophy that fits in very well at Genesis. from the Earth without any bad consequences. Thomet established the first market garden at Genesis Farm At Genesis Farm, people come to learn an alternative cosmolo-shortly after his arrival. He and the nuns started selling vegetables to gy—one based on the interconnectedness of all life—and then talk the public, and soon realized how difficult it was to compete with about what can be done to confront an ecological crisis that isn’t the low prices of the local A&P. Then, in 1986, a documentary film going away. Sister Miriam calls the hard work ahead “the greatest called It’s Not Just About Vegetables gave them a different idea to con-spiritual quest any generation has ever been asked to take.” sider: community-supported agriculture . The learning center and its charismatic leader have become CSAs function like a Wall Street known not only for this kind of eco-spir-investment with a variable return itualism, but also for inspiring grassroots rate, except that the investment is in action—locally and internationally. In a local farm and the dividends are 2001, Genesis Farm started the Foodshed food. CSA members prepay for veg-Alliance, a nonprofit with a broad mission etables (and often other farm pro-to support local farmers in northwestern duce) at the beginning of the year New Jersey. Sister Miriam has traveled the and then receive a share of the week-world delivering her environmental ser-ly harvest all summer long. Good mon. In 2007 Grist magazine named her growing seasons means more pro-on its list of the world’s top “green reli-duce for members, and one way or gious leaders.” the other the farmer can count on One of the newest courses taught at early season capital and a guaranteed Genesis Farm is called “The Transition level of income. Movement.” It is based on the idea that Sister Miriam used Genesis with cheap oil running out and current Farm’s mailing list to help organize industrial practices unsustainable, com-a meeting to discuss the possibili-munities will need to rely on themselves ties of this new agricultural model. for survival. Transition organizers teach “Seventy people showed up, and that food and energy production will that’s how our CSA got started,” need to become increasingly localized and she says. decentralized. In the interest of promoting The Transition movement began in long-term stability, the nuns of 2005 in Ireland and England and has Caldwell granted the Community spread to more than 350 communities A sign at the entrance to Genesis Farm on Silver Lake Supported Garden a 50-year lease around the world, including 79 in the Road; the Strawbale House, an energy-efficient on 51 acres, and helped it incorpo-United States. In Sussex County, Newton sustainable building, serves as a learning center; rate as an independent entity. At the became New Jersey’s first official snowdrops peek through the early Spring soil. time, a religious order sponsoring a Transition Initiative in December 2010. farm was somewhat unprecedented, but it’s a model that has been “Transition Newton” started after a group of residents attended successfully repeated in the United States many times since. workshops at Genesis Farm and decided to put what they learned From its first season in 1988, the Community Supported Garden into practice. has expanded to serve more than 300 families. The farm is now run by Sister Miriam sees the Transition movement as a natural comple-a team of three farmers—Mike Baki, Smadar English, and Judy Von ment to the work Genesis Farm has been doing all along. It’s about Handorf—and an ever-changing crew of four apprentices. Educating planning for a future in which communities can look to themselves new farmers has become an important part of the ethos here. for food, energy and economic stability. “We take the apprenticeship program very seriously,” English “The term they use in the Transition movement is ‘community says. During an apprenticeship, beginning farmers can gain not just resilience,’” she says. “We’ll need all the wisdom that’s in the elders, knowledge, she explains, but also an understanding of the signifi-and the church people, and the firemen, and the kids, and the cance of the work. teenagers. We need everybody now to say, ‘How are we going to “There’s a certain kind of connection with the land,” English depend on each other and the place where we live?’” n says. “It’s kind of like a bug that gets you. And if it gets you, it can G ENESIS F ARM , 41A Silver Lake Road, Blairstown propel you into farming.” 908-362-6735, genesisfarm.org. Participants in an Earth Literacy course at Genesis Farm are like-ly to encounter charts of the cosmos, discussions of geological See related story, page 54.