ON THE PICTURE : The Abundant Table CSA community and Farm Church tour the site of the King and King Ranch (in Fillmore) with farmers Guadalupe Rojas (left, in cowboy hat), Reyna Ortega (right, waving, with baseball cap) baseball) and Allen King on October 30, 2021. Photo by Lisa Devine
by Madeline Nathaus
The abundant table
P.O. Box 6295, Ventura
âI remember my first experience putting my hands in the ground and watching radishes come out of the ground,â said Erynn Smith, a resident of Ventura. “It started this lifelong love affair with the earth and the maintenance of the earth and the miracle of the earth and the miracle of the maintenance of life.”
This love affair began with her involvement with The Abundant Table, a collective of nonprofit workers led by Latinx and women focused on worker rights, justice, healthy eating, and the preservation of the earth.
âFarmers are the heart of the organization,â said Smith, now a board member of Abundant Table. âCaring for the land is the heart of the organization. What our community is asking is how can we best support the farm and the farmers? “
The Fillmore-based Certified Organic Farm was founded in 2009. Their mission is large and broad: They seek to change the way consumers view agriculture through social justice, agricultural education, and bonding with Earth.
Reconnect to the earth
Several months ago the farm moved from the McGrath family farm property in Camarillo to 3.6 acres of land on the King and King Ranch in Fillmore.
It took a while to get used to the change, said Smith and Guadalupe Rojas, a farmer from Abundant Table. Each new soil they work with offers different soil conditions, microclimates, and pests. Even a small alteration in the environment changes the type of crops the land can produce naturally and also calls for alternative approaches for weed control and pest control.
Smith, who regularly helps on the farm, and Rojas said that with the convenience of commercialized farming, consumers have disconnected where their food comes from.
Rojas, whose mother tongue is Spanish and has been translated by Smith, said: âIt has always been our mission, to raise awareness of our relationship to the land, to each other and to ourselves. It’s growing food, but it’s also deeper than growing food, it connects you with other beings on earth.
Part of how they achieve their goal is to get people to the farm to work with the soil and see where exactly their food is coming from. They hope that this awareness will gradually change the agricultural system as a whole and bring the agricultural industry and the public back to the roots of natural food production. Their on-farm education program in particular allows students of all ages to visit the farm and interact with the farm ecosystem.
âBringing children to the farm and from an early age giving them truly formative and shaping spaces to feel that connection to the land and to feel that connection to the work of maintaining the land can really have an impact on their lives. and the life around this child, âRojas said.
The Abundant Table also offers a Community Supported Agriculture Program, or CSA, through which members can get a weekly box of local, organic and seasonal produce for $ 30.
The organization began as a campus ministry with a small group of students from California State University, Channel Islands and a small plot of land in Port Hueneme. Between the collective efforts and resources of founders Sarah Nolan, Julie Morris and Paul DeBusschere, The Abundant Table was able to provide a space in which interns could live, work the land, and explore land healing and farmworker justice.
Although the founding ministry is Christian, members of Farm Church, an Abundant Table community, stress that their faith is not secular. All beliefs and backgrounds are welcome; the heart of their spirituality is the earth.
Jeannette Ban, Farm Church Fellow and Former Intern and Farm Coordinator, said: âIt is impossible to separate the mysteries, magic and spirituality inherent in farming from its actual practice. Instead of dominating the earth and completely changing it, we try to synergize with it and grow as partners.
Abundant Table’s goal is to interfere as little as possible with the earth’s natural processes. Farmers and other workers avoid the use of pesticides in favor of introducing beneficial insects into the environment and only grow products that the earth naturally grows on its own. As a rule, the most abundant crops are carrots and lettuce, but the harvest changes regularly.
âPeople often don’t have an idea of ââhow difficult it is to grow up with the season,â Rojas said. âWe don’t have real teachers teaching us. The best teacher we have ever had is Mother Earth herself. Mother Earth taught us what we can grow in different places and what we can grow in different seasons. “
The farm works on a surprisingly small scale. At one point, the farm had more than 20 employees between the board of directors and the farmers. These days they have about five people on the board and three farmers. Positions, however, do not stagnate; farmers attend council meetings and council members help out in the field when they can.
About two years ago, a mini revolution took place when farmers expressed their need to be more included in the decisions that were made. Thus began the transition to a workers’ collective. While the conversation is ongoing, the goal of the farm is to operate democratically, with all staff having an equal voice in decisions made.
âYou can’t look at the food system, you can’t look at the farms, without looking at the dynamics of the breed classes,â Smith said. “I’m happy to be in an organization that really wants to fight this and really center the voices of the farm team in decision making.”
Rojas said he sees the move to a worker collection as a natural progression of the values ââThe Abundant Table stands for at its heart.
âThe crux of the matter was being able to have decision-making power and there was a lot of support for that,â Rojas said.
The Abundant Table also intends to help bridge the racial and class divide by offering subsidized CSA boxes, providing fair wages to its workers, maintaining awareness of how farmers are treated, and raising awareness of how farmers are treated. remembering the Chumash who owned the land before.
âThe community of Abundant Table is largely made up of middle-class white people and the agricultural domain is primarily Latinx and you have to reckon with the realities of that,â Ban admitted. âRacial justice is something that we as a culture will fight with for the rest of our lives, and our children after us will continue to fight it. “
La Table Abondante is financially supported by individual donations, grants from departments such as the USDA and CDFA and especially by their CSA boxes. Demand for boxes has increased from 75 per week to almost 300 per week after the start of COVID-19 last year, over concerns that consumers will not be able to purchase non-local food.
During the pandemic, the farm kept farmers safe by regularly discussing mask warrants and social distancing. The staff wanted to make sure their farmers felt safe and willing to continue their work.
While events and volunteer opportunities have been curtailed due to COVID, The Abundant Table hopes to make them regular again once everyone has fully settled into their new farm in Fillmore. People can also get involved in the community through the Farm Church group, which regularly hosts outdoor gatherings and a Facebook group.
âThis farm, in terms of the community, is built around the farmer and that farmer’s relationship with the land,â Smith said. âThe space here allows us to build truly authentic and meaningful and, dare I say, transformational relationships. That’s why you have people who are really committed to this, to each other and to land for 12 years through all the ups and downs. “