The Teikei movement is a system of community supported agriculture (CSA) organizations in Japan. The idea can be traced back to the 1960s, but the Japan Organic Agriculture Association (JOAA) was founded in late 1971. When JOAA was established, the country was in the midst of rapid economic growth which led to greater industrialization and its ‘offshoot,’ i.e. environmental waste and contamination. This called for greater food safety in the country. According to the JOAA website, “Teikei is an idea to create an alternative distribution system, not depending on the conventional market. Though the forms of “Teikei” vary, it is basically a direct distribution system. To carry it out, the producer(s) and the consumer(s) have talks and contact to deepen their mutual understanding: both of them provide labor and capital to support their own delivery system. In this system they usually set delivery stations, where the nearest consumers of 3 to 10 families can get the delivered products.”
And while the Teikei movement originated in Japan, its philosophy has spread throughout the world, much like many of our popular religions. CSAs are now prevalent all across the United States, and there are an estimated 18,000 gardens up and running now, according to the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA). The organization’s mission is to build community by increasing and enhancing gardening efforts and greening throughout the United States and Canada. Some say that community gardening is 50% gardening and 100% political action; the idea is to get together with likeminded, progressive people who want to affect positive changes in their local government. By getting back to the earth, those involved (1) learn an appreciation for the soil and the hardships associated with the production of food, (2) communicate with others about issues that are important to them, and (3) make lasting and meaningful relationships around the production and consumption of food.
The structure of community gardens varies. Some are facilitated through government plot allotments that are operated on an individual basis, while others operate on private lands that rely on work-share volunteers who invest their time and labor in exchange for weekly boxes of fresh, organic groceries. The latter model is also heavily reliant on those who pay into the system for their groceries. This helps to fund the organization, its resource needs and pay its staff (at least for the bigger ones). Much of what is produced is then sold at farmer’s markets on weekends and weekday afternoons. These forums allow consumers to meet producers and develop relationships centered on wholesome, organic foods, as well as connect on other personal and/or political issues.
A now defunct community farm that was once one of the biggest in the country is the South Central Farm located at East 41st and South Alameda in Los Angeles. It operated for twelve years before it was shut down when the property was sold in 2006. Covering some 14 acres, the farm was run by 350 families from the nearby area, and it was home to nearly 150 different species of plants. It was the subject of an Academy award winning documentary, The Garden, in 2008. After it was closed the productive area was bulldozed, and it has sat fallow ever since. What a waste of talent, resources and productivity.