I want to talk briefly about Community Supported Agriculture and what it means to us. CSA farms are becoming a more main-stream way of buying produce, and the past decade has seen the number of CSA farms that exist grow exponentially. There are so many different kinds of CSA farms and the products they offer vary greatly. When a movement catches on and gains popularity, the very spirit from which it was founded can sometimes be left behind and in the dust. I became very interested in CSA farming because of the spiritual aspects connected to it; and it feels important to express what this means to me and re-define it occasionally so that we don’t lose sight of what this was all really supposed to be about in the first place. Although this is a business that we run, where you could be considered one of our ‘customers’, I really would rather think of us all as community members working together and sharing the risks of farming together towards a healthy food-producing system.
To the best of my knowledge, the first CSA (although it was not exactly called this) started in Japan in 1965. A group of women were concerned about pesticides used in food grown for consumption, the increase in processed and imported foods, and the corresponding decrease in the local farm populations. The concerned women approached a local farmer and worked out the terms of the cooperative agreement. This first CSA was called “teikei”, which literally translates to “partnership” or “cooperation”; or in more philosophical terms, “food with the farmer’s face on it”.
Aside from actually getting the food directly from the farmers, this idea was also intended to bring communities of people together and strengthen the economy of the farm and the surrounding urban areas by keeping local dollars local. This shows how even where you choose to spend your money for food has a political impact. How so? Because you’re not supporting farms in California, New Zealand or Mexico...nor the oil companies (indirectly) to have that food shipped here. You're supporting a neighboring farm. The community strengthening aspect is one that I fear is losing it’s potency.
Farming is risky business. Period. You’ve got to have faith and trust and patience to be a good CSA member and simply enjoy your season. You’ve got to have faith that the seasons will unfold and bring plenty of rain and sunshine when it’s needed most. You’ve got to have trust in your farmer that they will provide you with the best of what they have and will work hard towards making a wide variety of vegetables available for you. So when the seasons and the weather patterns take their course, they will produce the vegetables in their respective seasons. All vegetables have a season, and we are meant to eat them when they come into season when they are fresh, full of flavor and are most nutritional. Indulge while it lasts, because good strawberries only come around once a year.
There is an interdependence between the farmers and the members also. The local members have food because the farmer grows it, and the farmer grows the food because they know there are guaranteed customers that will take it. Together we share a mighty risk. You’ve taken a risk and a chance by signing up with us this year that we will be able to provide a bounty of fruitful harvest, and I’ve taken a risk as the farmer attempting to grow so many different kinds of food and hoping and praying they grow and reach maturity. This season has been slow to start, and we’re not the only ones feeling this impact of such a late spring, many other CSA farmer friends of ours have similarly small boxes to start their season off with. It’s hard to remember those cold Spring days now that the average temperature is in the 80’s, but we can’t go back and undo what has been done.
As the farmer and one of the risk takers in this agreement, I’m asking you to please be understanding with me as this season begins. We have a mighty field filled with rows upon rows upon beds filled with beautiful plants that are growing and will start to set fruit very soon. The bulk of your share will be made up in the latter part of this season. All the plants that we have in the ground look better in some areas than we’ve ever seen in our field. There are even flowers on the tomato plants! Our potatoes look amazing and the carrots surprised me today when I was walking alongside them. Their foliage is so green and getting bigger every day. With a nice rain here and a good drink, the plants should be taking off.
Now you understand a little of what CSA is for us. Please believe, we have put our backs, sweat, hearts and souls (and a big fatty of a mortgage) into our Small Family CSA Farm, because we believe. We believe in small farms, we believe in community, and we believe in good, wholesome, delicious food in season. So hang with us. We’ll make believers out of you, too.
I would also be interested in hearing what CSA means to each of you, no matter if you are a newbie, or a veteran CSA-er.
So….WHAT’S in the BOX???
Strawberries– They’re here! Eat promptly! Berries that are harvested when they are red-ripe do not keep as well as berries harvested before they are ripe, like what you may find in the grocery store. Fresh berries are extremely perishable! Refrigeration does not stop the process of deteriorating, in fact is may worsen the problem if the condensation from the container adds more moisture and they begin to rot. Eat promptly, enjoy the sweet-sour!
French Breakfast– It’s about time! The leaves on these babies are a little chewed, but are edible. Best stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Garlic Scapes– These are shoots off of the garlic growing in the field. A scape is actually the garlic plant making an effort to put out seed for re-production. But garlic growers snap them off so the plant knows to put it’s energy into making a larger garlic bulb, rather than putting it’s energy into making seeds. These yummy scapes are perfectly edible. Use like you would use garlic in any, your eggs, soups or stir fries.
Kale- Kale is in the same family as broccoli, cabbage, collards, kohlrabi, cauliflower and so on. A huge pile of these leaves will wilt down into hardly anything, so use them generously, and don’t be shy if this leafy green is new to you. It’s LOADED with nutritional value. I like it fried in butter or coconut oil with some nuts or bacon and tamari. Remember, the stems are “as tough as rope” (Deborah Madison) so just use the leaves either sliced or pulled off. Also great chopped in soup (add it before serving). I really do love kale!
Lettuce– YES, more lettuce. I wish I had an endless supply. It’s just trickling in now.
Beet Greens– You often find baby beet greens mixed in the pre-made salad mixes that you buy at the store. These are slightly more mature and perfect for salads or wilting down into almost any dish. Beet greens are in the same family as spinach and Swiss chard. Use like you would for one of them.