Want To Build A Stronger Community? Start By Supporting Local Farmers

By U Cast Studios
October 6, 2023

Want To Build A Stronger Community? Start By Supporting Local Farmers
Image Courtesy Of Strong Towns

For nearly one hundred years, North American towns have followed a development pattern that wastes resources and makes communities financially fragile. One element of this is that Americans are dependent on fragile food systems, where, instead of being sourced locally, most food is obtained from the global supply chain (and is thus subject to any disruptions in that chain).

This article was written by Seairra Jones and originally published by Strong Towns.

If communities want to become more financially resilient, one of the easiest ways for them to do so is by supporting local food and local farmers. As Strong Towns President Charles Marohn puts it: “Instead of paying transportation costs for a global supply chain, that money shifts to paying local labor. Instead of shipping your money out of the community, it passes around within, growing your wealth.”

Not only does supporting local food help the local economy, but it also has the potential to create a flourishing and connected culture of people. The following story is a testament to how the small things, like grabbing veggies from a local farmer instead of a chain store, can lead to a making a big difference on an individual and a community level:

“Right now there’s a CSA pickup going on here [at the farm]; there’s about 20 kids running around, playing on the trampoline, the playground. My kid is wandering around with some friends that she made—didn’t know them before, but just found some kids walking through the pasture,” said Jesse Kayan of Wild Carrot Farm in Brattleboro, Vermont, while on a call with a Strong Towns staff writer.

Wild Carrot Farm sits just a few minutes’ bike ride from Brattleboro’s historic downtown. Nestled in the hills, it’s a well-known Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) vegetable farm that gets about 165 visitors a week looking for food, or just a nice place to walk.

“People feel like they can come and use the space very openly, which is great,” said Kayan.

Wild Carrot Farm (with Fair Winds Farm) uses draft horses for all their farming needs.


Your neighbor, the farmer who provides your CSA, the baker down the street, or your child’s football coach could quickly become the most influential people in your life. According to Kayan, it’s the neighborly relationships that really make a difference.

“There are a lot of things that can work against being able to farm effectively and the thing that has made it possible here is just this really devoted community,” he said.

Kayan and his family experienced some of the depth of that devotion a couple years ago, when they discovered part of what was making his wife ill was toxic mold in their nearly 200-year-old home.

“We had to move out of our house for environmental reasons, and we were essentially homeless,” said Kayan. “We thought we might have to leave the farm and realized that the only way to stick it out here was to build ourselves another house. Though we were sort of at a loss financially.”

As Wild Carrot Farm CSA members and other members of the community began to catch wind of the rocky situation Kayan and his family were in, they rallied in full support to help.

“CSA members stepped in and said, ‘We have an interest in seeing that you’re here because this farm doesn’t exist without you. And we value this farm,’” said Kayan.

Neighbors, the CSA members, and those who stopped by the farm stand began raising donations for Kayan and his family’s new home. And it was all made possible by the simple act of getting to know a neighbor, taking the time to purchase from a local food stand, and valuing the blend of farming and urban culture within Brattleboro.

“Frankly, we wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t kind of built those relationships just through conversations and tossing people some garlic here and there and trying to be connected communally,” said Kayan.

 In Brattleboro, the community connection doesn’t end between farmers and CSA members or other customers: there are unique relationships between the farmers, as well.

“We’re part of this network of other farms who are really just cooperative and collaborative,” said Kayan. “There’s no sense of that capitalist idea of competition.”

This year, a large flood wiped out a neighbor’s non-profit farm just down the road from Wild Carrot Farm. They lost their entire garden, which they had been growing to feed new immigrants from Afghanistan, as well as to host a community garden space. Any hope of continuing their CSA or farm stand for the year was lost. But other local farmers decided to pick up the loss and contribute around 10% each from their CSA sales to the flooded farm. It meant that the farm could continue to have income, and they’ll be able to recover and plant again next year.

“There’s this sense that we’re all in this together and that we need each other,” said Kayan. “We benefit when we’re all here and doing okay.”

The best part of all these life-changing relationships is that no one necessarily had to agree eye to eye on the political spectrum for this thriving community to work. Kayan said that not every CSA member who helped his family voted the same politically, or even thought the same on what the future of Brattleboro looks like. No one had to agree with each other on every single matter to have a friendly conversation, or even contribute and partake in community gatherings. Coming together over life aspects such as food, helping one another, and having a friendly relationship trumped any potential disagreement over political ideology.

“Building the infrastructure for community through [neighborly relations] is good business. It’s good. It just feels good,” said Kayan. “It creates this level of resiliency, as we saw when we got sick and needed to build a house. You can’t put a dollar value on something like that. It’s very hard to measure, but it has a real value.”

Small actions can lead to making a big difference. Getting to know your neighbor, taking the bus instead of driving, signing up for a CSA share—you never know what little actions may deepen the resiliency of your community, and make it thrive.

What’s a small step you’ve taken to build your community and make it a stronger town?

Brattleboro was the winner of our 2023 Strongest Town Contest. Think your community has what it takes to win? Learn more about entering for next year’s contest here!

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