Monday, June 11, 2007

On the farm -- Day 1

It was an eventful weekend for Meagan and me. Friday morning was our first day ever working at a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm. For those who aren't familiar, CSAs dot rural America and are a much better way to attain most of your food for much of the year. CSAs work in two primary ways.

One way is for you to find your closest CSA and buy a share for the year. At our CSA, Sunny Sky Farm in Amherst Junction, Wisconsin, a share costs $420 for the regular season, which gives you a weekly average of 10 pounds of delicious, local, pesticide/herbicide-free, land-preserving, picked-yesterday food that will feed a family of four on a mixed diet for a week. Sunny Sky has convenient pickup spots in each of the 5 most populous cities in central Wisconsin. You get resupplied every Thursday/Friday from June through November, and you have the option of buying a storage share of hearty vegetables at the end of the year that you can preserve, so you can extend your consumption of local goodness for several more weeks.

The other way: you actually work for your share. At Sunny Sky Farm, we each put in approximately three hours of work in exchange for a full share. Being only two, we plan on shifting to a more vegetable-based diet in order to best take advantage of our earnings. Right now, the shares are on the lighter side, as it is early in the season, but later on, the boxes are supposed to get quite heavy; so we'll have plenty to share.

Your mileage may vary at other CSAs.

So, on Friday we earned our food by taking the tops off of radishes, hoeing between salad crops, preparing a greenhouse for planting, and weeding the garlic crop. The work was harder than we thought it would be, especially the weeding part, which was hours of bending and squatting and pulling. But besides overlooking a couple boxes of radishes and weeding what we thought were weeds (a.k.a. wildflowers) but were actually nitrogen-fixing crop covers, it was a decent start to the season. Having been raised in a megalopolis, we're gonna fuck up a few times, I'm sure (Farmer Mark is very understanding and nice). But we're learning how to raise the food that we and other community members eat to live. There are not many other things I'd rather do right now than learn how to tend my own food--to know what goes into it and what piece of land it comes from.

Our reward for working was a peaceful Friday morning in the country, a gigantic bag of spinach, a head of romaine (I think) lettuce, a bag of salad mix, a large quantity of Rhubarb that leaves me at a loss, a bunch of radishes, and a decent quantity of turnips. The selection of crops will change as the season progresses. The spinach was so delicious that we ate it all this weekend (sandwiches, wraps, salad, on pizza, in tomato sauce, and in a dish with mashed turnips, tofu, garam masala, turmeric, garlic, ginger, ghee, and onions) . Everything else is excellent too--except, I'm not sure about the rhubarb, which, as I said, perplexes me. Meagan says we'll make cobbler with it, and everyone else says "Rhubarb pie, duh!" but I still just sit there and shake my head wondering what I really can do with rhubarb. We'll make it work though.

Besides feeling the rather unexplainable joy of helping my sustenance grow straight out of the ground, I feel good knowing that most of my food takes minimal machine energy to produce and transport and that it is a sustainable operation. What better model could there be? You contribute either a fraction of your time or a fraction of your paycheck, and in return you get the most delicious, well taken care of, produced-nearly-in-your-backyard crops, as well as a connection to your community and the land.

Industrial agriculture, with all its pesticides, herbicides, disease, destruction, cruelty, GMOs, and pollution, is a failed model. As more people become aware of the CSA option, and as CSAs of all different kinds start to connect with each other across their localities, I'm sure we'll see a long overdue revolution in agriculture that actually serves to alleviate hunger and environmental damage thanks to the way CSAs bring commonsense, efficient, generations-tested yet fully modern methods of basic living to our refrigerators.

Time for some salad.

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  1. Thanks for the link to CSAs, there's one right in Naperville I'm going to check out :)

  2. Awesome. I expect a future meal of local goodness in lieu of my finder's fee. ;)