Community Supported Agriculture found us 5 summers ago; last weekend, Ben and I put in our volunteer hours at the farm in which we have a share. And, we got the good news that this week we start picking up veggies - the season is finally, finally beginning!
To celebrate, this week I'll be posting journal entries about our CSA experience; hope you enjoy them.
Community Supported Agriculture
February 20, 2004
“We both know that I won’t be able to do much in the garden this summer, there’s a good chance I’ll end up on bedrest with this pregnancy, too. Aly and Mike are signing up for a farm where they go pick up veggies from June through October. All organic, the farm’s first year, and they only ask for 6 hours of work over the whole season! I can get that out of the way while I’m still in my middle trimester, and then we’ll be eating well until late fall,” I said in a rush to my skeptical husband.
“For the low, low price of?…” Ben asked; as sole provider, it’s his prerogative –and burden - to worry about money. Not that I don’t worry about money, but I think it’s a daily, perhaps hourly concern for Ben. Whereas, if I’m worrying, my thoughts tend toward “what if something happens to Ben or Luke? What if we’re in a car accident?”, I think Ben’s what-ifs are more like “what if health insurance goes up more than my cost-of-living raise?” “What if I lose my job?” “What if we can’t afford to pay Luke’s college tuition in 15 years?” We’re a team, Ben and I – he worries about money, and I worry about nearly everything else.
Currently, I’m concerned about my family’s health. We’ve got a new baby on the way, our 3 year-old is too heavy – as is his mother, even when not pregnant – and we do not get enough fresh vegetables in our house. Five months into this pregnancy, I’m craving salads and fresh, crisp vegetables – never in my life have I wanted green food so badly. I’ve started dreaming about it, and the fare available at the grocery store looks so wilted and sad compared to the vibrantly colored, delectable cucumbers, arugula, and lettuces of my dreams.
Also, right now it is the dead of winter. The cold, frozen, snowy landscape, normally a favorite of mine, is this year causing me to feel trapped, as though I can’t breathe. Perhaps this is because my activities are limited by my pregnancy; another reason may be that my horizons this year are limited by the demands of a wonderful, but sometimes trying, 3 year-old.
In my mind, I see Ben, Luke and I taking almost inexpressible joy from fresh vegetables grown at a farm twenty minutes away from us. I see Luke helping Mommy and Daddy choose tomatoes, and then playing in the dirt with other kids, hot and sweaty in the summer sun. This Community Supported Agriculture farm that our friends are buying into represents more than just food to me. It symbolizes health, wellness, and life – qualities that I will not allow to be overcome by worries about money.
“Well, it is kind of a lot – four hundred seventy-five dollars – but it’ll be so worth it! We’ll try new vegetables, we’ll all eat better – maybe Luke will try some new ones, too…”
“Karen, if we do this, it’s only going to be for this one season, right? It’s not only about the money, you know, it’s about our garden too. I like growing tomatoes and green beans, I like having a garden, I don’t want to get out of that for long.”
“Okay, one season if you want – but give it some thought, all right? It’s expensive, but I really think it’s worthwhile. Imagine, picking up a bunch of veggies every week! Doesn’t that sound neat? I want to sign up soon, so…”
“Let me look at our money situation again, and think about it.” Ben, ever the triple-checker. Well, at least he didn’t say no outright, I though to myself. Now, hopefully, it’s all over but the screaming!
Notes from Year One – The Vegetables Require Maintenance
Early June, 2004
Well, if we joined thinking it was going to easy, we were mistaken! Our first few pickups have consisted of more greens than I’ve eaten in my life to date. Here’s a sampling of a typical early season week’s pickup:
1 large bunch each: Kale, Collard Greens, Mustard Greens
½ pound each: Arugula, Vitamin Greens, Mizuna Lettuce
1 pound Tak Choi
1 small bunch each: Radishes, Baby Turnips
I’m good with the radishes and arugula – and I think I can figure out how to use Mizuna lettuce – but what do I do with kale or collard greens? What the heck is tak choi? Everything needs to be washed, I never put the salad spinner away, I barely use up all these veggies before a week has gone by and it’s time for the next pickup! What have I gotten us into?
Early July, 2004
Two things have helped improve our vegetable share experience: one, I got a CSA cookbook – Asparagus to Zucchini – a kind of vegetable bible for those of us insane enough to join a CSA. Two, the warming weather has changed the make-up of our share. While we still get some arugula and choi (I tried that cooked in a beef stir-fry last week, and I have to write the recipe down, it was great), we’re also getting more familiar vegetables, like broccoli, summer squash and zucchini– not all favorites, but I’m working with them. Best of all are the spring peas, sugar snaps, and green beans! I’m all for stuff that can be eaten raw, with minimal preparation, after so much rinsing, washing, and spinning - not just for dirt but the occasional bug.
On the way home from picking up the share last week, Luke ate as many spring peas as I could open for him (not easy, I was driving). My son, who’s never eaten a green thing in his life, likes peas! Thank goodness.
Soon, Ben will have to stop and pick up the share on his way home from work; I’m barely able to get behind the wheel, I’ve got so much baby bulk in front now! Actually, I think it’ll be good for Ben to pick up the veggies at the farm; it’s like time slows down there, or something. With all that’s going on elsewhere in his life, he could use a little quiet time. Hopefully, between driving up that dirt road next to the hay fields and nibbling on some beans or cherry tomatoes on the way home, he’ll be able to forget about the pressures of home and work.
Just a few weeks until we’re the parents of two. How do I feel about this? I don’t know… I’m worried, of course, about Luke, and being a good mom to both, and how will this baby be, and why oh why did we decide that a second one would be a good idea? But I’m also kind of excited to meet the new little guy – who will he look like? What will his temperament be? I’m going to miss the baby aerobics going on inside; I’m very grateful that my uterus, while not perfect, could get us this far. Just a little longer…
We are snowed under with tomatoes! I’ve never seen so many tomatoes in all my life, more than one family could ever eat. Fortunately, I got a fantastic recipe for roasted tomato sauce from the radio, so I can make sauce and preserve some of this fantastic bounty. Too bad Luke and I hate sweet peppers, Ben’s been bringing home lots of them, too, and as he’s the only one who eats them, we’re giving away quite a few to friends and family. We’ve also gotten loads of basil, carrots, hot peppers, tomatillos, cukes, leeks…the list is endless.
I’ll say it again: these vegetables require maintenance. Thank goodness our pickup is Thursday night, it gives me the weekend to sort them all out, blanch beans (just before Owen was born, Ben picked seven quarts of green beans!), chop up and freeze basil, or turn it into pesto. I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into!
As a special treat, I got to do the share pickup all by myself this week – the first time I haven’t been connected to baby Owen since his birth one month ago. He’s a little cutie, looks just like Luke did except that his hair is strawberry blond instead of jet black. He’s a tougher baby than Luke, who slept through the night in the hospital, his pediatrician made me wake him up to nurse at night. But Owen can’t help it, hopefully as he gets older he’ll figure out when he should be awake and when he should be “sleeping like a baby” – a term that is really a cruel joke, as every parent of a newborn knows!
I took advantage of my alone time at the farm; I snuck my Newsweek magazine with me. Once I’d loaded all the veggies into the car, I sat in the front seat, overlooking the fields with the sun getting lower behind the trees. And while I read my magazine, and breathed in the fresh air, I ate – fresh-picked cherry tomatoes.
I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a candy bar as much as I enjoyed those tomatoes.