CSA USA

CSA USA

The following series of photographs document six successive shares from three CSA (community supported agriculture*) farms in three geographically distinct locations in the United States during the fall season of 2013. For the exhibition at Houston Center for Photography, I asked each farmer if they would share documentation of their weekly harvest from August through September as a way of celebrating their work and bringing an audience as close to these working farms as possible.

As a farmer and a photographer myself, I have seen the increasing attention given to the documentation of food. I have participated in it. I have taken stylized photographs of well­prepared food and proud farmers and have been happy to celebrate the artistry of chefs and the ambition of growers. But, I have also made these photographs with a stroke of reluctance, worried that this was a limited version of the story. It is important to me that in the celebration of good food we don’t let it suffer the fate of fetishization. We need a holistic narrative that reveals the process and the people who are the backbone of our local food systems.

Many of the farmers I know use photography as a means of documentation, a way of sharing their harvest online or to create a visual archive of their seasons. I have always loved these images for their vernacular beauty and for their truthfulness.
When given the opportunity to show my own work, I instead decided to ask a cross­section of farmers to share their images.

The following photographs from farmers Josh Volk, Sonya Montenegro, and Brad Shufflebeam are as much portraits of place as they are of the vegetables depicted. The six week time period presented in this exhibition gives a sense of seasonality and the changing succession of food and distribution on each farm. The presence of these photographs and the farmers who made them are also a testament to the renaissance of small community­minded farms and to the continued work of these farmers to champion an alternative to an industrialized food system.

Visitors to the gallery were invited to select a CSA share photograph to take with them and to investigate CSA membership in their own region.

*Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a combined effort between a farm and a community of supporters (“shareholders” or “members”) that creates a direct relationship between the production and consumption of food. Each season the members provide the money needed for the farm to operate by purchasing a “share” of the season’s harvest. By making this commitment, a CSA member assumes with the farmer the risks and the rewards of growing the food they will eat. Members benefit from CSA because, in return for their investment in the farm, they receive a share of the harvest, fresh, healthy, local food each week throughout the growing season. By having a relationship with a specific farm, CSA members also know exactly where their food comes from and how it was grown.