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    Head & The Hand Press Debuts CSAs for Books: Guest Post

    head and the hand pressGuest Post by The Head & The Hand Press Founder Nic Esposito

    When I founded The Head & The Hand Press, it was almost counter-intuitive that I wanted it to be a for-profit venture. After spending many years in the non-profit sector, primarily in urban farming, I was under the impression that I could not satisfy my ideals and fund an operation through “business”, which I had been conditioned to reject and revile.

    But as I began developing the concept of The Head & The Hand, I was posed with the most important question I have ever been asked. Did I want to create an activist organization that happened to make books, or did I want to start a publishing company that made quality books, but happened to be staffed by activists? I picked the latter, and I just couldn’t justify using the charitable donation structure of the non-profit to fund my work. To put it bluntly–disadvantaged kids struggling with illiteracy need charitable donations, able adults should buy books.

    Just as I have always been an advocate for consumers to financially support their local farmers that grow the food that sustains their physical existence, I believe that consumers should do the same for arts organizations that promote our cultural progression.

    Community Shared Agriculture: CSAs

    Faced with dwindling consumerism in the advancement of globalization and industrialization of our food system, farmers and advocates created Community Support Agriculture (CSA) programs to support local food production. In this system, a farmer creates a shareholder relationship with his or her customers. In the beginning of the season, the shareholder pays the farmer a determined amount of money, and then every week thereafter, the farmer provides a box of vegetables. Although this may seem like it completely benefits the farmer, most CSA shareholders find that when they compare the prices to what they’d pay in the supermarket for each item, it’s actually a lot less.

    But even with such a good deal for both parties, a CSA could still be a hard sell. The first CSA I developed was in Philadelphia. When I would tell these seasoned city folks that if they just gave me a bunch of money now, I’d come back with vegetables every week, I may have well have asked for a few dollars, swearing I’d spend it on train fare. But as these people came to find out, it wasn’t just a good deal I was offering. In a certain sense, I was selling them a community where they knew where their food came from, and were connected to others with the same ideal.

    Community Supported Publishing by Head & The Hand

    The Head & The Hand’s Community Supported Publishing (CSP) started in the same way, and satisfies the same needs. Faced with a changing media landscape, an abundance of free content, and a terrible economy, many arts are threatened, including publishing. For a yearly membership, our shareholder/readers get two boxes per year (October and April) filled with one of our novels, one of our almanacs, two selections from our chapbook series, and other extras like book art or t-shirts.

    nic esposito head and hand

    It’s in this system where I finally find a comfortable place between the non-profit and the for-profit. By connecting readers and writers through our CSP, we can continue to produce quality content while having the support of a community that values what we do as a whole, and not just as a single book for the cheapest price. And it’s in this relationship where we find our way to not just survive, but to continue producing even better work with more writers.

    Nic Esposito is a writer and urban farmer from Philadelphia. Along with developing urban farm projects in the city, he also operates a small urban homestead with his wife Elisa, and their dog, cat, chickens and bees. He writes about social change for blogs and magazines, has spoken on sustainability at the 2010 TEDxPhilly Conference, and is the founder of The Head & The Hand Press


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