For five years Kristy Apostolides lived in Fort Greene and coordinated CSAs– that is, she organized communities to buy shares in a farmer’s harvest; the farmer got paid in advance and delivered crops weekly. She loved Brooklyn and never thought about living anywhere else.
But she’s Greek by birth and on a visit there was surprised to see the same problems that threaten local farmers here. Europeans are building vacation homes on what had been the best farmland, Greek youth are leaving their family farms with no one to run them, and Greece has just joined the E.U., which has a fair-trade environment similar to NAFTA’s. “I knew firsthand,” she remembers, “that the CSA model can keep farming an attractive, viable option while providing a source of great food for urban people. It re-encourages people to value farming and has real possibility for any place dealing with the pressures of urbanization.
She returned for a three-month stay through last December during which she formed an information-exchange network of about 50 organic farmers on Crete who grow vegetables, wheat, grapes, citrus, and olives. “It’s funny—their resources for organic agriculture are ten years behind ours. Here, universities, cooperative extension, and regional certifiers like the Northeast Organic Farming Association all provide technical instruction. There’s really no support for organic agriculture there.” She also developed an intern program, through which people new to farming can work with organic farmers. And she laid the groundwork for starting a CSA program, which she will work on again when she returns this October. “All the farmers think it’s very possible,” she says.
Kristy says her work in Brooklyn convinced her of the benefits of the CSA model. At the Clinton Hill CSA, which she started and was a member of, she “saw Brooklyn people change. They saw the seasons and noticed things around them for the first time, not only what they were eating but, say, when there are mulberries on Brooklyn’s trees.” (Not initiated yet? That would be June.) “I heard that story over and over again, and want to make it happen overseas too.”
Greece isn’t the only country where Kristy is making it happen. She’s now on a committee starting an organization called Urgenci that will use the CSA model to make agricultural connections between urban and rural communities on six continents. Only six?