Community shares faith in farmers

Program encourages faith groups to invest in local CSAs


For the Capital Press

EUGENE, Ore. -- More than 200 people sang "That's My Farmer" while celebrating the 12th anniversary of a unique partnership by that name involving 13 faith communities and 11 farmers in Lane County, Ore.

John Pitney, who wrote the lyrics and melody, started the program that supports local farmers by encouraging members of congregations and others in the community to purchase community supported agriculture shares.

Pitney, a Methodist minister, estimates that faith group participation in CSAs contributes as much as $100,000 annual income to farmers.

"Our initial goal was to thank farmers," said Pitney, who has worked to support agriculture during much of his ministry influenced by being reared on a dairy farm near Junction City.

As the program grew, however, the faith groups raised money through a variety of promotions to subsidize low- income CSA customers of participating farms.

For example, people who attended the April 6 anniversary meeting contributed $850 and last year the faith group raised $7,300 for the fund.

Paul Atkinson, the owner of Laughing Stock Farm near Eugene and a member of the faith community, said the That's My Farmer program has been a forum to advance the important tenants of his life: "The religious belief that I must love and care for all creation, and that a life well-lived seeks sustenance from land and community. This union of farmers, faith communities and food lovers gives me hope."

A similar view was expressed by Jabrila Via, an owner of Winter Green Farm located near Noti in western Lane County, a farm that provides food for 600 CSA customers during the summer.

"People know who is growing their food," she said. "They have a real connection with the farmers. CSA customers often become our friends, visit the farm with their children and reconnect with the land."

This is the 20th year that Via and other members of three families at Winter Green Farm have sold food through the CSA program and farmers' markets in Portland, Eugene and Lorna Baldwin, who began leading the faith group three years ago, started studying nutrition 35 years ago and believes "that fresh, whole food is one of the secrets to having a healthy society."

Baldwin, who is a city of Eugene employee, said it is healthier to eat food produced locally than food that is imported from all over the world. She said the That's My Farmer program will continue to promote CSAs, but they won't be its main goal. She hopes to establish a five-year plan that includes such things as helping train new farmers and preserving good farmland in the state.

And singing farm songs written by Pitney, who led the anniversary crowd with this catchy tune:

Oh yum! Oh yum!

It's an awesome day!

Oh yum! Oh yum!

We know where our food comes from.

We know where our food comes from, oh yum!

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