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CSAs: An Inside Look at the Farm

Last week we talked about all the great experiences many of us have had with being CSA members, and today I wanted to share something that I wasn’t expecting to learn by subscribing to to one.

I knew that I would learn to eat and cook a wider variety of vegetables and that I’d be able to use our CSA as a means of teaching my kids about food and where it comes from, but I wasn’t expecting to learn so much about farming, and more specifically about how the weather effects our food supply and availability.

In our culture, we’re so used to being able to get any kind of produce, no matter what the season. But those of us who are trying to eat more locally and seasonally know how precious each crop is, as it only appears for its dedicated time– when it’s gone it’s gone.  This year I was able to get a glimpse of how, even in Southern California, “extreme” weather can do some serious damage, testing the preparedness and creativity of even the most seasoned farmers.

I wanted to share a letter with you today that I received on April 11th of this year from my farm, just to give you all a peek inside the workings, struggles and successes of a small farm.

Hello CSA Members,
The 2010-2011 season may be the most difficult year in farming ever.  Last year our first seedlings of tomatoes and squash were in the ground.  This year, the ground just isn’t warm enough and so we lost all the seedlings.  The heavy rains have been pounding the soil and flooding the fields.

Those of you that have been with us awhile may be wondering about the winter cabbage, turnips, kohlrabi and cauliflower.  Well the heavy rains literally pounded the top soil, along with the nutrients, deep into the soil and brought up the decomposed granite.  These plants were not happy and so these crops were lost.

On a brighter side, we’re so fortunate to have a forward thinking farmer and last year Joe spent considerable time, effort and expense covering over five acres of greenhouses.  Now we have cucumbers that are just starting to come in.  You should see them in your boxes more and more.  There is a huge planting of basil that will be harvesting in about 4-6 weeks.  Green beans are also growing in the greenhouses and we may be harvested around the end of May.

The sweet peas in the fields are looking great and should be producing shortly.  As you know, our last crop was ruined by a hail storm. Joe has planted a serious bed of garlic and we should be supplied with green garlic for awhile (I can never get enough of that).

The strawberry fields are looking very good and the berries are extra large this year.  However, too much rain and the fruit gets a soft spot where it touches the ground.  So a few more sunshiny days and they will be perfect.

So hang in there everyone, more variety is just around the corner.  Meanwhile enjoy your wonderful produce.

I loved receiving this letter because it continued to make so real the fact that our fruits and vegetables are products of the hard work of our farmers. They don’t just come from industrialized supermarket stock, but they have been carefully planted and tended to.

Our local farms our fragile, and utterly dependent on the weather, and I’m thankful to have such a resourceful farmer who somehow still delivers bountiful boxes of produce, even if it’s not exactly what was expected or planned.

Let’s hear it for the small farms– they were once so abundant in our country and now are rare gems in an over-industrialized, impersonal food culture!

Reading Time:

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  1. anna911

    Your persistence is really inspiring. We all need a reality check here and there to remind us that our food is indeed the product of very hard labor and doesn’t “grow on supermarket shelves” Thanks for sharing the letter as well.

  2. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    We’ve done a CSA for a few years now, and it was a crash course in how farms really work for this city girl!

    That’s a beautiful picture, and it showcases one of my favorite CSA crops: purple carrots! Delicious.

  3. Angie

    My Fella and I were just talking about this very thing on Saturday.
    We had the opportunity to spend the day (beginning of season “party”) at ‘our’ CSA w/ other members. The farmers gave us a tour of how things are coming along for this yr. It was a great reminder of all the hard work that they do.
    We are fortunate to have several CSA around us. however, they are quite full. Some even have a wait list of 3 yrs!

  4. Alissa

    Yes, we had our kick-off party last weekend as well! My boys LOVED helping plant the potatoes – it will be so fun for them to see them in our basket later this year.

    For anyone still wondering about a CSA, I would encourage you to find another family that will split a subscription with you. We’ve done that for the last 3 years – we just alternate who picks up the basket each week. For us, it’s the perfect balance of trying new veggies and creative menu planning one week and then being able to “take a break” and cook our old favorites the next week.

  5. Ben

    I just got back from farm country up in Minnesota. Being around farms really does make you appreciate food more, just like you said. They’ve had their fair share of weather problems as well. One farmer up there lost 100 cows because they cows couldn’t handle the heat and humidity.

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