- Author: Rose Hayden-Smith
Our family recently began subscribing to a CSA (community supported agriculture) venture. We live in Ventura, and have ready (and enviable!) access to an amazing array of farm-fresh fruits and vegetables. We buy strawberries from a local farmer who operates across the street from my husband's office, or at our local farmer's market. We buy oranges from a farm stand near Santa Paula. We have our regular go-to people. But we wanted more, and we wanted to be more intentional in our purchases, to make an ongoing financial commitment to a particular group of local farmers.
So we joined an established CSA that was willing to extend their service a little south, if we could find a handful of subscribers. It was easy to do, and through various email lists and via word-of-mouth, a group of us found each other and began this experiment.
Wednesday is CSA day, and all of us look forward to it with excitement. Last week, my daughter Natalie had a minimum day at school, and joined me for the pick-up at Patagonia's corporate office. (Nice company...for no charge, willing to let boxes of produce be stacked in their lobby, under the stairs. The receptionist even offers to help us carry out the box!).
As we carried the box to the car, Natalie's eyes sparkled. As I drove home, she pulled every item out of the box, examined it with delight, and radiated excitement. Literally beaming. Eggs from cage-free chickens and fresh-baked organic bread are add-ons we've gotten, and Natalie is delighted. She tears off pieces of the bread in the car. When we arrive home, she wants a "snack." This ends up becoming a golden omelet seasoned with fresh basil, toasted cinnamon-cranberry bread, sliced sun-kissed strawberries and pieces of pixie tangerines, so succulent and sweet. Oh, and a tiny salad of the tastiest butter lettuce sprinkled with shredded cheese.
Dinner the next night is easy, thanks to the recipes provided with the box. Natalie helps to prepare wheat pasta with sauteed zucchini (flavored with the elephant garlic, which she says is the best thing she's ever smelled).
The next day, I've invited Natalie, a six-year veteran of school garden programs, to speak to our local Master Gardener trainee class about why it might be important for them to volunteer with youth in garden settings. She does talk about it, so eloquently that I am moved. She is particularly concerned about the oil situation, and the implications for her generation. She sees gardening as one part of the solution. What is the most moving aspect of her talk, however, is what she tells these adults about our family's subscription to the CSA. She describes the contents of this week's box lovingly. Many of them don't know what a CSA is, so she explains, very articulately.
While Natalie admits she doesn't want to be a farmer yet, I'm working on her. And she is becoming more interested in gardening and food systems: her summer crop this year will be cucumbers, her absolute favorite. And I definitely feel that the connections Natalie is making about farming and where her food comes from are becoming more real to her, and helping her to understand the larger context of the food system, what is sustainable, and what is not. The connections are made real several days a week, when she helps prepare and eats the good food produced by her neighbors, and can recite the memory of the taste, the smell, the feel of that good food to others.
"A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden."