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Vol. 5, No. 1 Maysie's Farm Conservation Center, Glenmoore, PA April 2004
Community Supported Agriculture
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The Amazon Rainforest: It's Closer Than You Think
By Roger Mustalish

What comes to your mind when you think of the Amazon? Mysterious? Steaming jungle? Lots of rain? Jaguars? Native people? Remote? As someone who has had the privilege of visiting and working in the Amazon on over 40 different occasions I can assure you that the Amazon Rainforest is all that...and more! At the same time, though, I've come to learn and appreciate that the Amazon is as close as your kitchen spice cabinet, your daily cup(s) of coffee, the banana you have with your cereal, and the medicine you get from the doctor. Indeed, the Amazon, often called the "Lungs of the Earth" is as close as your next breath.

I am currently working with a native group called the Ese Eja. They live in an area of southeastern Peru called Tambopata. In the village of Infierno, they have created medicinal plant gardens and seek medical care from their shaman; they practice an ancient type of organic, sustainable agriculture and they share their food with each other. The members of Maysie's Farm can relate, no doubt. I just came back from the Amazon with a group from West Chester University, where I am on the faculty. While there we agreed to help the Ese Eja with a village project for which they had been unsuccessful in getting support from the outside world. The village school, Hermosa Grande, boards native children forced to leave their home village and families in order to attend secondary school. At the boarding school, their nutrition suffers. To help correct that, the school wanted to have a small chicken flock for eggs for the children. They call their program, "Eggs so that we can feed ourselves better." For a mere $375 donation to the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER) Foundation, a US 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, our group "sponsored" Hermosa Grande and will make their egg project a reality.

The sponsorship is part of ACEER's AMIGOS Partnership for Education, a program that links US schools, students, teachers, parents and organizations to promote improved education and community service projects throughout Peru's Amazon region. A unique aspect of AMIGOS is the CyberSchool that lets US school students and teachers interact via the Internet with their counterparts in Amazonia; it also hosts chat sessions with shamans and scientists, and provides great resources for learning more about the Amazon. Since 1996, I have been honored to serve as ACEER's President, and this past July ACEER moved its US headquarters to West Chester. It was just about the time I became President that I hosted a WCU workshop to Peru. It was on that workshop that I met Dawn Lawless. You already know how that trip changed her life and translated into so much good work for her school and for Maysie's. (Read her sidebar account about her experience, and the teacher workshop she'll be facilitating in July.) The lessons she learned in the Amazon have served her well at her school and at Maysie's. The Amazon IS closer than you think.

In turn, I think that each of us has a lot to offer the people of Amazonia. I invite you to consider joining me on an expedition to the Amazon and to consider participating in ACEER's AMIGOS program. Check out ACEER's website: www.aceer.org or call me at 610-738-0477 or e-mail at rmustalish@wcupa.edu. Without wanting to sound alarmist, time is running out on the Amazon and on people like the Ese Eja. We need your help. For example, right now the number one botanical medicine imported into the US from the Amazon is Uña de Gato, or Cat's Claw (Uncaria tomentosa). It has very strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and is also undergoing tests for anti-cancer properties. It is a gift from nature and from the native peoples of Amazonia who knew its use, much like Echinacea was given to us by North American natives. Michael Balick of the NY Botanical Garden estimates that another 300 life saving plant-based drugs await discovery in the Amazon. The question is, will the forest be saved in time to discover them and learn of their uses from the native people? It's up to us, actually. That's why ACEER has created medicinal plant gardens throughout Peru to save germplasm (much as United Plant Savers does in North America), and why ACEER hired Antonio Montero Pisco, a shaman, to be our garden curator. There is a very strong and very essential connection between the work here at Maysie's and the work of groups like ACEER. We each see conservation as, ultimately, a personal commitment to our communities and nature. That's why I'm optimistic.

So the next time you sip your cup of coffee, or get relief from joint stiffness from Cat's Claw, nibble that morsel of chocolate, or breathe in the air made possible by tropical rainforests, I invite you to pause, smile, and thank the forest, and then recommit to seeing that future generations have the same blessing.

Wish List

Looking to get rid of any of the following items? Maysie's Farm will put them to good use! The first four needs are for our new "office," which is under construction in the old "staff room":
  • Wooden file cabinets (especially 2-drawer)
  • Small electric range/oven
  • Porcelain sink (preferably single bowl, but large enough to fill 5 gal. buckets)
  • Sink base, under-counter cabinets, wall cabinets and a short length of countertop material
  • Picnic table(s)
  • Large outdoor canopy
  • Solar-powered walkway lights to provide light from the parking area to the barn
  • Rechargeable AAA batteries (for the walkie-talkies donated by Cathy Fornwalt)
  • Working lawn mowers, especially electric ones
  • Straw bale chopper (for mulching large areas)
  • Manure spreader, or information leading to the acquisition of one!
  • Tractor (our 1967 Ford requires an increasing amount of maintenance and causes an unacceptable amount of pollution)
  • Assistance building a bio-diesel production system or a compost tea brewing system

Please contact Sam at (610) 458-8129 or sam@maysiesfarm.org if you can donate any of these items.

The Dollars and Sense of a Share at Maysie's
by Carol Revak

Have you ever wondered how your share at Maysie's compares to the cost for equivalent produce at the store? You may be surprised to know how reasonable our share prices are at Maysie's!

We started a price comparison program at the beginning of last season, and tracked the prices of organic produce at Wegman's compared to the average weekly price of a share at Maysie's.

The comparison was a little easier said than done, however, and we needed to make some adjustments in our tracking and consider several different scenarios. For example:

  • There were times when we simply were not able to locate specific organic items at the store. Their lower-cost, non-organic varieties may have been available, but we couldn't find the organic version. So, to address this, we looked at price differentials between items where both organic and non-organic selections were available, and came up with an average price differential for the products. We found that, at Wegman's, organic items averaged 18% more than their non-organic counterparts. So, we used an 18% price adjustment when we had to estimate an organic price.
  • Sometimes we couldn't find ANY of a specific item at the store – whether organic or not. This happened infrequently, and when it did, we sometimes just had to leave the store price blank in our calculations.
  • Sometimes the pre-packaged store items were not the same quantity or weight as what we had at Maysie's. When this occurred, we weighed the various items and adjusted the price accordingly.
  • We were challenged with how to measure the 'pick your own' items at Maysie's – some shareholders pick everything every week, and others do not pick any at all. What quantity should we use for our comparison? We separated out these items from our comparison.
  • Finally, we did not consider any "seconds" that might have been available in the barn.

The following are the results after 22 weeks of our 26-week season:

Scenario 1: YTD share cost for barn pick-up items at Maysie's compared to actual produce prices at Wegman's (includes the lower-cost price for non-organic produce, and does not include any pick-your-own items such as herbs, flowers, cherry tomatoes, peas, beans, edamame soy beans, raspberries, blackberries, chestnuts or basil plants…).

Wegman's cost:$307
Maysie's cost:$254 ** $53 less than store-bought **

Scenario 2: YTD share cost for barn pick-up items at Maysie's compared to adjusted produce prices at Wegman's (if organic produce could not be found, we added 18% to the price of non-organic produce to get to equivalent organic prices. Wegman's price in this scenario still does not include any pick-your-own items.)

Wegman's cost:$320
Maysie's cost:$254 ** $66 less than store-bought **

Scenario 3: YTD share cost for barn pick-up items at Maysie's compared to adjusted produce prices at Wegman's (if organic produce could not be found, we added 18% to the price of non-organic produce to get to equivalent organic prices. We added the price for some pick-your-own items such as herbs, flowers, cherry tomatoes, peas and beans, and assumed that the shareholder picked a bunch of each of those items every week it was available)

Wegman's cost:$622
Maysie's cost:$254 ** $368 less than store-bought **


And, there are not only price savings at Maysie's Farm, but there are many intangible benefits as well!

  • Healthier eating — Not only are we eating produce that's organic, we're also, many shareholders tell us, eating more vegetables in general than we were before becoming involved with Maysie's Farm CSA. There's nothing like a few bags of fresh, organic produce in your refrigerator to encourage you to include some vegetables in your meal plans.
  • Fresher, local produce — Produce at Maysie's Farm is harvested the morning of each pick-up day. You can't get much fresher than that - and from a store, you can't get anywhere near as fresh as that.
  • Wider variety — We were not able to consistently find the wide selection of organic produce we received from Maysie's Farm available at a store. If we'd been determined to find it, we would have had to drive from store to store to store, wasting gas...
  • Conserving open space in Chester County — By supporting local small farms such as Maysie's, we help to keep these open spaces from being turned into yet more housing developments or shopping centers.
  • Educating families — Don't you think the children (and adults) who pick up their produce at Maysie's Farm have a better understanding of "where their food comes from" than the average Chester County resident?
  • Developing "community" — Being part of a CSA is more than the informal 'pick up the groceries at the store' experience. Our members become friends, and pickup days become social events, as well.
  • Puppies — Where else can you get great produce and watch adorable puppies at the same time???

All things considered, CSA membership at Maysie's Farm is a veritable bargain — it definitely makes sense!


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