Hurricane Irene Damage Makes Mutualism Real

Sep 14, 2011

corn-field.jpgAt Freelancers Union HQ in Brooklyn, New York, we waited for Hurricane Irene's approach with fearful anticipation. Would it just be an adventure, building a grown-up fort of flashlights and water in our living rooms, or something worse? Our office is located close to water - would it be at risk? Luckily, the hurricane weakened and most of us suffered little more than being cabin fever. On the other hand, we are intimately connected to many who fared worse. A number of us have been participating in a local CSA program for a few seasons. Community Supported Agriculture means agreeing to share the risks of food production with the farmer who would otherwise take on all the risk of feeding us by him- or herself. We pay them for the job they do, not for the pounds of food they produce. This summer, the meaning of shared risk and mutual support became very concrete. The farm which sends us luscious heaping stacks of produce every week (for a heck of a bargain over grocery store prices, I must say) sent a note saying that they were not hurt too bad_: "_My heart and thoughts really are with them [upstate and New England farms] because it has happened to us in the past, as I know all too well, and how easily it could have happened this past weekend." An email from Just Food said that more than 15 farms in their network alone were severely affected, and their description of what shared risk means in a crisis really hit home (emphases added):

" ...The concept of shared risk is very real, and in the wake of Irene we are all reminded of this. No matter how skilled a farmer is, no matter how hard she works, no matter how well he's planned, there was nothing they could have done to prevent the severe flooding. Unfortunately, this all comes at the worst time of the season. Money has already been invested in crops that now cannot be harvested, and it is now too late in the season to replant many crops. These losses are devastating, but CSA farmers are not just throwing up their hands and walking away. At the same time they greatly appreciate the support that CSA provides, they also feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to their members. As we speak, farmers and their crews are diving in ... looking at their fields-those that aren't still under water-to figure out how, or even if it's possible, to make the best of the remaining season for their members. CSA members have already provided stability and support for [their] farms. ... What your CSA farmers need the most now are your patience and understanding, as well as your commitment to their farm over the long haul."

These same values - sharing resources and risks, feeling mutually responsible, and planning for the long run - underpin everything we work on here at Freelancers Union, and we're glad to be part of a wider web of organizations who work the same way to make our communities and lives more vibrant and sustainable. photo by Putneypics