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In 2003, one Delmarva farmer who devoted 20 years of his life to sustainable farming practices, along with a few individuals inspired by their experience as members of his farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), came together to build a new – and “renewed” — vision for the Delmarva Peninsula.
These individuals wanted to share with others what they had learned about the value of sustainable agriculture, organic growing practices, supporting local small acreage family farms, and buying locally as they relate to the regions’ environment, economy, and the health of its population. They also wanted to share their sense of urgency about taking action that would bring this about, as they learned more about risks associated with continued loss of a major economic, social and environmental resource: small acreage agriculture based on the family farm.
The environmental hazards posed by current “conventional” farming practices and the benefits of direct marketing local foods through projects such as Community Supported Agriculture, had long been recognized in many other regions, but had not yet become a part of public awareness in the Delmarva region.

The Lower Eastern Shore Sustainable Organic Network was born from a desire to develop the region’s ability to feed itself and greatly enhance food security in the Delmarva region by closely connecting the farmers who produce the food with those who eat it.

LESSON initially focused its work on the Lower Eastern Shore. However, in 2010 LESSON officially changed its name to Local Eastern Shore Sustainable Organic Network, to reflect an expanded focus encompassing the entire Delmarva Peninsula as home to its “local” (regional) food system.

LESSON’s Earliest Projects

LESSON’s first project was to make local, sustainable food available to interested individuals whose economic circumstances made it difficult for them to purchase the benefits of CSA. The Medora Harvest Fund allows community members to donate funds to sponsor a family to participate in CSA. The recipients are individuals with serious health challenges and/or limited financial resources. To date, 60 individuals and families have been sponsored through receipt of shares of healthy, sustainable and organically grown food.

LESSON’s Role as a Non-Profit

In late 2004, LESSON was incorporated as a non-profit organization, and in April 2005 LESSON was granted a 501(c) 3 designation by the IRS, which allows it to receive tax-deductible contributions. With these new tools, LESSON expanded to develop a farmer education program and began to reach out to the entire Delmarva Peninsula. LESSON’s involvement in Delmarva’s developing local food shed continues to deepen, and now includes:
• Restoring Delmarva’s significant agricultural heritage - a heritage increasingly at risk – by supporting small acreage family farms and sustainable agricultures.
• Commitment to make healthy, sustainably grown food accessible to all.
• Recognition that it is small, diversified, family farms growing for their communities that are most likely to create sustainable agricultures.
• Recognition that sustainable agriculture in the Delmarva Regions ensures stewardship of the unique ecology associated with the Chesapeake Bay and coastal bay watersheds and can thereby contribute to environmental restoration of the Chesapeake Bay through decreased reliance upon synthetic pesticides and fossil fuels, and improved water quality.
• Revitalizing our regional agricultural economy for produce (vegetables and fruit), humane, pastured animal production, and production of grain for food rather than feed.
• Recognition that Delmarva’s sustainable food shed will develop through a highly interdependent network of small and diversified farming operations that meet the needs of the communities in which they are embedded.

LESSON’s work therefore is diversified and focused on education and relationship building; our goals in these areas include:
• Public recognition of the value of buying from local farmers engaged in sustainable farming practices – because fresh, nutritious, safe food produced by farmers who are fairly compensated for their work ensures our individual physical health, economic viability of farms and the vitality of agricultural enterprise, and a healthy, strong, and growing local economy.
• Recognition in the Delmarva Peninsula farming community that the benefits of farmer cooperation and implementation of increasingly sustainable farming practices improves their economic viability and increases their capacities as environmental stewards as well as establishes farmers as role-models thereby making farming a desirable occupation ensuring a safe, abundant, and secure food supply for our future.
• Recognition that economic viability and environmental stewardship are mutually reinforcing through work that meets the needs of all our community members and that such work encourages creativity and entrepreneurship, and yields social justice and social equity for farmers, eaters, and the environment alike.
• Recognition that engagement in our community through our work and what we learn and share with others is what makes life worth living.
FOOD is our community connection – because we all have to eat and because what we eat and how it is grown is so connected to both our individual health and the health of our environment.

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