csa by nuhman10


									Community Supported Agriculture: A Share of Bitter Melon

Servings: depends on the numbers of CSA members


A list of all the CSA farms in your area and their contact information

Bitter Melon seeds

Bitter Melon growing instructions

Bitter Melon sample recipes

Participating farms and farmers



Begin in the early spring, several months before the beginning of the growing season.

It is best to begin this project in the very early spring, several months before the
beginning of the growing season. This may vary depending on your region, so research
what is appropriate to your area. In temperate climates, farmers begin growing seeds for
seedlings as early as March, which means they are already mapping their land and
purchasing seeds in January and February. You will want to begin your outreach when
farmers are at this stage.

Call every farm on your CSA contact list.

As a member of the National Bitter Melon Council, you can introduce yourself and your
member title as you wish. Ask the farmers if they know about or have ever grown Bitter
Melon. Invite them to participate in the project. When we first did this project, we
contacted farmers by phone and email. We include a sample email here for you to use if
you like.

In the early Spring (late March or early April, depending on your climate), send or hand-
deliver the seeds and growing instructions to the farmers.

You can use the growing instructions in this volume and refer them to the National Bitter
Melon Council web site for more information.

Once the farms have their seeds and growing instructions, check up on them periodically
throughout the season.

They may find it helpful to get nutritional information or additional recipes to send to
their shareholders once the Bitter Melon vines are producing. Plus, it is fun to hear how
the plants are doing and take a visit to the different locations. You never know what you
might find out (or take home!)

 Bitterness Level: 1 to 3 Bitter Melons, depending on the weather, the soil quality, and
the responses of CSA members.


Community Supported Agriculture: A Share of Bitter Melon was a New Market Initiative
initiated in 2006. We were interested in the specific way that Community Supported
Agriculture (CSA) models require both a close connection between growers and
consumers and, on behalf of consumers, the releasing of control over the contents of their
weekly deliveries. That is to say, when buying a share in a CSA farm a shareholder
receives a box of fruits and vegetables weekly, though only varieties that are in season
and that the farmer wants to grow. These shareholders succumb, for a season, to the
whim of the farmer, the weather, and the plants‟ productivity. It is a release of the power
of choice that is so marketable (and marketed) in the U.S. consumer culture.

While this is one of the more time intensive projects in this volume, we promise that
producing it in your community is sure to bring you sweet rewards. For us, the
experiences with the 6 collaborating farms we worked with in „06 remain rich and
wonderful memories. Danny Botkin and his family had us over several times for a
wonderful home-cooked meal, pie, and sent us home with seeds of several of his prized
heirloom tomato varieties. Brian Cramer of Hutchins Farm harvested large, beautiful
Bitter Melons and his daughter made a special sign for their farm stand to help patrons
start to love their awkward form and flavor. Anne and Mike Gagnon of Bear Hill Farm
shared many stories with us of their 4th generation farm, and all of them sent us home
each time with armfuls of produce and good wishes.

More project information, designed to be read after the project recipe – in a
separate section/page/font:

Why CSA?

For Community Supported Agriculture: A Share of Bitter Melon, we were particularly
interested in seeing what happens when CSA farmers grow Bitter Melon – a plant that
does not readily appear in any CSA seeding lists, at least in the Northeast United States.
We were interested in the similarities between the CSA process and Mail Art, an art
practice that began in the 1960‟s that sought to subvert commodity-based art distribution
systems by sending art objects – often at random – through the mail. Sending the
unfamiliar gourd Bitter Melon at random to CSA shareholders produces a similar sense
of surprise and curiosity as receiving a randomly sent piece of artwork. In both cases, it
is the producer, not the consumer, who has control of who ends up receiving the piece,
and how, upending standard market practices used in usual food and art distribution

We do believe that collaborating with local CSA farms to grow Bitter Melon has a
surprise effect. Inserting Bitter Melon, a vegetable challenging to the eyes as well as the
tongue, particularly highlights the release of choice on behalf of consumers – especially
when they do not know and may not like it‟s flavor. In exchange for the power of choice,
consumers receive a sense of interdependence with the farmer, weather, and land and
participation in the food system they inhabit. The random distribution of a bitter tasting
and foreign looking vegetable ends up catching shareholders off guard and inspiring them
to think openly, and creatively about what they can do with an unfamiliar product that, all
of a sudden, finds its way into their refrigerator.
In 2006, we worked with 6 farms in the Northeast, providing seeds, recipes, and growing
tips and visiting them throughout the season to check up on their progress and
experience. Collaborating with these farmers, we learned a lot about the unique
producer/consumer relationship. Each farmer had a different take on what they grow,
why, and what to do if their consumers don‟t like what they get in their box or see at the
farm stand. Many of the farmers enjoyed the freedom that the CSA method allowed
them. While each noted that the „bread and butter‟ produce varieties such as lettuce,
tomatoes, cucumbers and corn were always in the highest demand, they each still grew
less popular items (Bitter Melon notwithstanding) because they could – and they felt it
was important to introduce their shareholders to new flavors.

As Ryan Voiland of Red Fire Farm put it in an email he sent to us on August 11, 2006:

“So far most people hate the Bitter Melons. I think they are ok though!”

[Not sure if it makes sense to use this or not…]

When we visited our 6 collaborating farms in 2006 we were also curious about the
farmer‟s relationship to bitterness. We interviewed the farmers about their job, their
process, philosophy, and their experience trying to grow Bitter Melon. We asked them if
they were bitter, and what makes them feel bitter. The conversation led in all kinds of
directions and we discovered quite a few things about farms, farmers, farming,
Americanness, and life.

Regarding bitterness, our collaborator Dan Kaplan of Brookfield Farm in Amherst, MA

“Bitter? What makes me bitter? People who, you know, are perfectly

healthy and have food on the table and still are not enjoying life. That makes me so sad.
Well…I guess it makes me more sad than bitter.”
And more from Dan on bitterness…

“She's sad about everything that poor kid -- which is doubly sad. Why, to be working on
an organic farm and be sad? That's triply sad, you know? Because you know you don't
make a lot of money at this job. You work awful hard. Tt's hot, it's wet, it's cold… the
least you can do is enjoy yourself. I mean, that's all that's left at that point for chrissakes.

But, she chose to be here… there must be some reason. Maybe an encounter with her

Not only did the farmers share their wisdom, they shared the fruits of their labor. We
received fresh eggs, extra kohlrabi and tomatoes, and even home-grown, home-cured
grilled ham. Each of which, by the way, go GREAT with Bitter Melon!

Collaborating farms & farmers in 2006 include:

Bear Hill Farm, Tyngsboro, MA

Anne and Mike Gagnon


Brookfield Farm, Amherst, MA

Dan Kaplan


Hutchins Farm, Concord, MA

Brian Cramer

Laughing Dog Farm, Gill, MA

Danny Botkin


Red Fire Farm, Granby, MA

Ryan Voiland


Many Hands Organic Farm, Barre, MA

Julie Rawson


New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, Lowell, M


Links & Resources:

Bitter Melon seeds:

Kitazawa Seed Company (for bulk orders): http://www.kitazawaseed.com/

Evergreen Seeds (for unique Bitter Melon seed varieties):

Finding farms near you:
Local Harvest: Real Food, Real Farms, Real Community

A searchable database for Farms, Farmer‟s Markets, and Groceries in the U.S.


State Agriculture Departments

A list of links to state agriculture departments in the U.S.



Photo essay form: images from the farms, the bitter melons, the seed tube, etc.

Illustration possibilities beyond images: (These could be tear-off sheets?)

-Sample email to a farmer (snapshot of Yahoo email)

-Sample letter: (that we included with the seed tube)

- Phone conversation example: sample narrative (with images… maybe it‟s a cartoon?)

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