The Chestertown Spy has, regrettably, had to write a fair number of obituaries of local businesses who have decided to shut their doors since we started this publication. From beloved bookstores to favorite restaurants, we have grieved along with our readers over the loss of not only local commerce but local culture.
While some of these endings were the result of an unanticipated economic recession, there were ample examples of proprietors deciding in the later years of their lives to quietly retire. Nonetheless, the consequences of these lost businesses correspond with the experience of grief; a sense of loss, a sense of anger, a sense of losing what we feel is so vital for our identity and our community.
With all that in mind, it was extraordinarily painful the other day to make note here that the Colchester Farm CSA would be closing their operation by the end of the year.
From the earliest moments of the Spy, we have celebrated and continuously endorsed the importance of community supported agriculture. And while there remains a number of great CSAs on the Delmarva, the local personal loss of Colchester is a particularly painful one for the Spy.
Starting with our early partnership with the CSA in bringing to Chestertown the transformational documentary, Food Inc in 2009, and shortly followed by one of our first videos on its operation, there has always been the greatest respect for its staff, volunteers and board members as well as very special affection for farm owner and visionary Charlotte Staelin, who started this grand experiment in 2003.
Our community is particularly indebted to the long-term tenure of Colchester’s agricultural master and farm manager Theresa Mycek who has been faithful to the Farm’s distinctive mission. A familiar face at the Chestertown Farmers Market whose unassuming ways masked an extraordinary work ethic and passion for locally produced food. It is of some small comfort that she will continue her farming practice on the Mid-Shore.
Unlike other startups, a CSA must depend on a certain amount of sheer human horsepower to ensure that the mission of the organization is successful. That meant in most cases that Teresa and her crew were in the fields in the early morning and would eventually retire at sundown for the vast majority of days of any given year. They did this not because there was a career track, a good health insurance, or pension program, but to prove that a CSA can provide an alternative model of farming that strengthens the relationship between farmers, community members, food, and the land.
And they were so right about that.
Even with the end of the Colchester Farm CSA experiment, the Spy remains optimistic that aspiring local farmers can find a sustainable business model in providing essential fresh and healthy produce to its immediate community. If they succeed, they might want to give Colchester some credit as being the first in Kent County to try and find that pathway.