Sustaining Ourselves and our Communities

25 Aug

[This is one in a series of posts by Junzhou Liu, ’17 about her experience as garden manager for the student-run Smith Community Garden and intern for the Botanic Garden this summer.]

I come from China, a country with a large population but limited food supply. Due to the astonishingly rapid progress of urbanization in China, the agricultural lands available for cultivation have decreased significantly, resulting in an increasing number of people who either suffer hunger or eat food with undesirable quality every day. However, some low-quality foods isn’t derived from natural limitations, such as the richness of soil or the humidity of the growing area, but instead is the result of cost cutting measures and use and abuse of chemical herbicides or fertilizers.

The first time that I heard about the term sustainability was when I worked in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in Beijing, China. CSA farms have been settled in many countries and regions in the world. Having a CSA farm in your neighborhood infers that you will then have a greater chance to get access to high-quality, fresh, and organic local food. Purchasing a membership in a CSA is an investment in the local farm; the farmer gets your money up front, and, depending on the CSA you are joining, you are guaranteed a weekly “share” of whatever fresh vegetables, fruits, or meat is harvested from the farm. Each CSA is unique, but the ones I am familiar with deliver shares to member houses or drop them off  at neighborhood locations bi-weekly or weekly. Shares usually include 7-10 different types of produce, at least enough for a family of two. You can even request more of one kind of vegetable in place of another.

In order to find a way to produce “green” food in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way, I spent a summer living and working on Little Donkey farm, a CSA farm in Beijing, China. There I learned how to recycle the rotten fruits, vegetables and certain types of weeds as components in organic fertilizers, how to use scented herbs instead of bug spray to protect agricultural products from pests, how to manage the farm as a self-sustainable area by saving as many products from the previous procedure to the next steps, and etc. At the CSA farm I worked, members understood that while their membership guaranteed that they would share in all the farm’s successes, it also meant they would share in the failures, too. For example, when the chickens produced fewer eggs but the potato harvest was greater than expected, members accepted that they would receive potatoes in place of eggs in their shares.

Before I worked on the CSA farm I used to believe that sustainability and food security were impossible problems to address. Though both are issues that affect everyone on earth the problems are way too big for me to solve or even worry about. However, now I have come to believe that no matter how big or small, tasks always require team work to be achieved. By helping garden at Smith and becoming a member in a CSA farm, for example, I am able to influence more people to follow my behaviors and spread more awareness of sustainability and food security issues.

Examples of CSA farms near Northampton for a good day tour:

Crimson and Clover Farm
215 Spring St, Florence, MA 01062

Mountain View Farm
393 East St, Easthampton, MA 01027


Enterprise Farm
72 River Rd, South Deerfield, MA 01373

Small Gifts Farm
1089 N Pleasant St, Amherst, MA 01002

Red Fire Farm
7 Carver St, Granby, MA 01033

-Junzhou is a rising sophomore and a potential biochemistry major and economics minor originally from Beijing, China. This academic year Junzhou is moving from Park House, where she spent her first year, to Hopkins House, where she hopes to continue to meet new people and enjoy making and eating food from different cultures with them.

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