I was reading a post on Ravelry a few days ago, and Cindy of Jacob’s Reward Fiber Farm made a post regarding a new “lens” she discovered for looking at how she ran her farm and work. I really think it qualifies as a paradigm shift in how we think of what we do in any form of connection-based agriculture.
She has been running a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture operation – but she reversed the model – I’ll let her speak for herself.
“Been doing a bunch of soul searching since my last blog post and I wanted to catch you up on a huge breakthrough I had Saturday…
First, let me back up a bit. After Wednesday’s post where I admitted I was worn out and wondered what the heck was wrong, several things happened. My friend Amy offered to help me wash alpaca fiber, which was so humbling, but such a welcome gift. Amy’s good at it and fast, and turned this huge roadblock in my life into a teensy tiny little speed bump. Huge problem nearly conquered. Wow. I’m still amazed. That helped me lurch forward here on my end, skirting and prepping even more fiber. Funny how when the log jam begins to shift, everything starts to flow… Can’t thank you enough, Amy. You started to help me open my eyes…
Then, I got a call from a new friend, Roni, who just recently bought American Livestock Magazine. She wants to enlarge the focus of the magazine to include more fiber stuff, and wants to write about our farm, and rare breed sheep, and fiber CSA’s. Wow again. Roni and her husband stopped by the farm on Saturday and we had a really great visit – we decided we’re peas in a pod, as she’s a spinner, knitter, alpaca breeder and all around fiber fanatic. She and her husband were pure delight to spend time with. Does it get much better?
Anyway, back to my Big Revelation. I was thinking and thinking before Roni came over, about how to tell her the story of the farm, and how to explain just who we are. And then it hit me like a bolt: We’re not a CSA, as in “community supported agriculture.” We’re an ASC – Agriculturally Supported Community. I just made up that title and acronym, so don’t try to Google it. Here’s what I mean…
We started out being about the fiber – the animals, the processes, the crafts, and the people who are into all that. But we’ve grown into primarily a community, held together by the fiber. It’s People Before Product at the LRB. The fiber is like the engine that drives the life of the community, but the community is the vehicle itself, that takes us where we want to go.
Think about why you love the farm. Is it because you can’t get alpaca fiber or wool fiber or knitting classes anywhere else? Nope. Thanks to the internet, and living near a big city, you can get that stuff almost anywhere, with a snap of your fingers. What makes the farm different? The people. Your sisters. The gifts and passions that each friend brings to the group. Old friends and new friends, and always another chair for a newcomer. We have so many different talents and skills and personalities represented that the mosaic or tapestry of our community is breathtaking. Our community isn’t only local – we have friends in the virtual worlds of Ravelry and Facebook and Local Harvest and Meet Up, who depend on this sense of community just as much as the regulars who gather at the LRB on a third or fourth Saturday. We’re here for each other. And we’re here for our wider community, through the generosity and gift-giving of our members.
I pushed the analogy nearly to the limit as I thought about felt and how it’s made: wool fibers agitated by hot water or dry needles to interlock together into a seamless fabric. Kind of like us. Locked together in friendship through lots of interaction of ideas, fun, trials, victories, and creativity. And this is so much greater than any dream I have ever dared to dream for the farm.
Now don’t panic – not much about the farm will change because of this new vision of who we are – nobody in the pasture will change, the shares will still be there, as will all the fun in the LRB. The critters you love and the life we document will all still be here. But this special focus will help me prioritize and make decisions about how to plan for the future with our resources. Maybe I can stop trying to be all things to all people – a guaranteed meltdown waiting to happen. No, this new lens will help me see much better where we need to go.
It may be a while before the acronym ASC catches on, but I think we’re on the cusp of a very important social construct. And I’m so happy you’re along for the ride with me. Maybe, everybody else figured this out ages ago and I’m just now finally able to articulate it. That wouldn’t surprise me. I’m great at missing the forest for the trees.
What do you think? Is this a better way to describe who we are as the JRF family?