May 27, 2010

Food for thought

I tend to be deeply influenced by the books I read. So last week when I was rereading a bunch of books about eating locally, I thought to myself, “These authors are right! It’s crazy for me to be eating an orange that’s been shipped hundreds of miles or lettuce that’s come all the way from the west coast.” Surely, I could find a way to reduce the amount of fossil fuel expended to feed the gang of hungry people at my house.

I immediately imagined myself growing all the food we need right here, in my own backyard. I mean, I read Farmer Boy over and over as a kid: I figured that qualified me to be a farmer.

I went outside to turn over the small vegetable garden behind the house. Obviously, I’d have to expand it. Right now, it’s only 12 feet by 24 feet, not enough to feed a houseful of Ultimate-playing young men.

After a couple of hours of working in the hot sun, the humid air and effort making me look like I’d entered a wet t-shirt contest, I tossed the shovel aside. Maybe I needed to convince my sons that gardening was more fun than Ultimate, and they could do all the work.

That possibility was as likely as me winning the lottery. My sons put 200 percent into anything they care about, whether it be Ultimate, jazz music, or physics. But that kind of intensity only extends to the passions they’ve chosen. I saw no sign that the highly theoretical physics research that Boy in Black does could be turned into a desire to farm, or that the hours that the younger two spend at the piano could suddenly be channeled into hoeing weeds. My husband wasn’t even an option: he’s at work in the daytime, and hordes of mosquitoes make evening gardening a type of blood sacrifice.

The solution, it turned out, was simple. I searched the internet for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm. The closest one to me was less than four miles away: in fact, when I looked at the address, I realized that I’ve driven past the farm hundreds of times. I sent a frantic email to the farmer, saying, “I know this is really late to be asking, but can I buy a share for this season?”

An email chimed in only minutes later. “Sure, send us a check; we’ll have a bin ready for you this Tuesday.”

That’s the way it works. People like me, who simply don’t have the time to raise their own food, pay up front. Then for the next 26 weeks, I can stop at the farm every Tuesday afternoon on my way home from my piano lesson -- and pick up my bin of vegetables. We’ll get whatever is in season, whatever has grown well, and we’ll figure out how to make it into meals. If they give us too much dark green stuff, I’ll send it over to my mother, who would happily eat collard greens every day.

The best part is that I don’t have to do the planting, the hoeing, the weeding, the worrying about whether or not we’re going to have another frost. I don’t have to convert my geeky sons into farmers. And I won’t have to feel guilty when I eat delicious meals from food grown less than five miles from my house. Since the farm is on my way home, the amount of fossil fuel used to transport the food will be zero. I wish all decisions could be that simple.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

We *just today* also signed up for a local CSA. We have a garden too, but this year, we decided to try container gardening for the most part, since we kept finding shards of thick bottles as we turned over the earth. Worrying about what might have been here before our house, we contacted our local historical society. By the time they reassured us that there had not been any industrial stuff on our site, we had already set up our containers.

So, when we had the chance to try the CSA, we decided to jump at it. Today, I handed a check over to the wife half of the couple who own the farm (which we discovered due to its awesome ice cream stand).

I am so excited to get my kids involved in figuring how to use what's in season locally, and to have them help come up with creative things to cook. Hopefully, we'll all get involved in the meal making.
There's something about the thought of a CSA that brings out the dreamer in me...

Hope you love yours!

--Neighbor Lady

Kendra said...

I'm looking for a place like this near me right now! My little veggie garden supplies me with tomatoes and hot peppers, but if I could get other veg locally too that will be wonderful. Thanks for posting about this!

Magpie said...

I love my CSA.

Interestingly, I have found that the very lack of choice in what you get each week is strangely liberating when you get into the kitchen. I cook stuff I never would buy - I'm far more adventurous with recipes, pawing through cookbooks for something different to do. It's fun.

Lilian said...

YAY, Jo(e), a while back when you commented on my blog that you thought it was cool that the first thing i checked out in VA was a CSA, I thought you must be a veteran in this. I can't believe I've already done it for 2 years and this is your first ;-).

Too bad this year *I* don't have a share anywhere -- we only decided this past Monday where we're going to be living. Thanks for the post reminding me that MAYBE it's not too late to check into this just yet!!! Wish us luck.

kayni said...

Great idea. I'm a new homeowner and I've just started a vegetable garden on my backyard. I love it! Also, I pick up my vegetables at the nearby farms. Apart from saving energy, we're also eating fresh, locally grown vegetables. It's a wonderful thing.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I get my beef through a sort of CSA as well. There's a ranch about 15 miles from here; I tell them once a month how much meat I think I'll need, and they drop it off at my house. I like meeting the rancher once a month. She's crazy and interesting and tells me funny stories about her cows. (One was actually part of a temple-raising ceremony for some Buddhists. How about that. She has a real, true sacred cow.)

Melissa Sarno said...

That's so exciting! I recently joined a CSA that starts next week. It's wonderful to pick up locally grown food and vegetables. I've done CSA's before and I gotta tell you, once the kale starts coming in, beware...I think I was eating kale for 5 weeks straight.

jo(e) said...

Lilian: Oh, I've done it before, back when we lived in our old house. But when we moved to this house and had more land, I had this idea I would be growing so many of my own vegetables ....

I think more local farms have joined up since the last time we participated in CSA. I was surprised this time around to find an option so close to home.

Jennifer: I would love to meet that rancher!

jo(e) said...

Magpie: I admit that I love not having to choose which veggies I will get. I hate shopping of any type, and I really prefer just being handed a bin of stuff.

Cathy said...

I hope you will share a picture of your loot when you get it.

It's too hot here to grow collards - that's a winter vegetable here.

jo(e) said...

Cathy: I figure I'll bring my camera to the farm and walk around and take photos of the whole enterprise.

nonlineargirl said...

My kids are younger, but I only plant what I know they will eat direct from the vine. (Strawberries, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, raspberries, and strangely, chives) We use our CSA for the rest.

Once you get that first basket, let me know what you do with all that napa cabbage. I am drowning in it over here.

Leslee said...

I buy from our Farmer's Market whenever I have the chance but this sounds much nicer! I'm going to have to see if we have this locally!

liz said...

Jealous!

AF said...

I'm about 2/3 through _The Omnivore's Dilemma_," and I can already tell that is a book that will open a new chapter of my life, like Thoreau says books can do. Will be looking for a local CSA soon. And I'll even try to charm my way into one this late in the season. There are some that include eggs too, so I'll go for that.

Lomagirl said...

Hey Liz! That's what I was going to say!

halloweenlover said...

I just finished Animal Vegetable Miracle and it totally changed my life! I'm totally trying to buy local also, and will hopefully be able to plant a vegetable garden with the kids (although not this year because with the new house I have to put my foot down on what I can honestly do). And we're doing a CSA this year too!

I can't give up the bananas, though. I have my limits.

Rana said...

Oh, so jealous! The closest one around here is at minimum a 45-minute drive away. :(