For the 4 years now that we have been offering a CSA model of connectedness between us (the farm and you), I have longed in some odd sort of way to have a CSA farmer myself. I wanted what our members had, a relationship with a farm, outside of my own world. This year, I joined our own CSA. I feel it is bizarre to say such a thing, but for real I wanted to treat my kitchen and my life the way I have envisioned some of yours to be. You go to work, you have to remember to get your box, you have three hungry kids calling at you, you start supper, you start to unpack your CSA box, you have homework to remember to get people to do, oh and then someone really needed a bath two days ago, so you are trying to make that happen, while trying to finish cooking supper, having everyone eat and then have everyone to bed by 7:30. Phew. And then on top of that, you start to unload your CSA box and bam, you have too many potatoes and wonder what the heck am I going to do with all of those potatoes. Then you notice that one apple as a bruise and an onion is starting to sprout and one potato is softer than you feel comfortable with.....and then what goes through your mind.....
We get a staple box, a meat share and an entre size veggie box. I can honestly say that I love all three. Are they perfect all the time? NO way! For the past four years I have been running down to the cooler or out to the garden to grab what I need to cook a meal. I thought I was experiencing something similar to you but I wasn't and I knew it and now I really know it. Now I experience it. Two weeks ago I was all out of food by Sunday and I still had to get to Wednesday. Now this week I have nettle and potatoes left from the past few weeks and then today I get my staples and entre box and guess what, I have a lot of potatoes.
My thoughts on this....(from my three separate view points)
As a mother and cooker and overall life management perspective - too many potatoes is hard and a few that are maybe on the verge of compost is something I internalize as I put them away, maybe I will need to make comment about it.
As a CSA farmer and concerned business owner - what we have right now are potatoes in storage. Their quality is not the best, but they are still good to eat. If we don't give out the potatoes then they will just be composted and then we have lost the value placed in them and also we will need to source something else to put into the CSA boxes from some place else and that will be harder on cash flow. Also, it can be hard to notice one off potato when handling them and it takes an experienced hand to ensure that we don't put in 'rotten apples' - this time of year with storage crops is extra hard. And this spring has been wet and dark and not ideal for large volumes of early crops.
As a CSA member - i didn't expect perfection and i don't get perfection all the time. i want good value and I want to experience and feel connected to what is real about the farm, the vegetables, about the people and I want to know without a doubt that what I am doing is a) is good for me , b) is making a difference, and c) is honest.
There we have it. I have more potatoes in my fridge than I would otherwise have. We will eat them all. Potato scallop tomorrow - my favourite. Mashed potatoes for a couple of days, all of our favourite. The apple with the bruise, that will be cut off and the apple will be eaten. The potato that is soft will hit the compost and in my case i will know it is feeding a pig, in everyone else case you can know that it is going back into the earth in some way. No need to call Teri on a rotten apple, for me this week is more about where we are right now in the season.
Maybe some of the imperfection and challenge is what makes our experience with the CSA real and connected to seasonality, locality and generally overall, food? And, then again, maybe not. I try hard to not have a bias, but I obviously am. What do you think?
Yesterday at lunch time Justine opened a bag of greens, plunked them in the salad spinner and washed them. I quickly jumped in with, 'oh let's make a really big salad'. I pulled out by bag of greens from last weeks share to rinse off too. She washed the greens and I chopped up the left over turnip, green onions, apple and pea shoots that were left in the bottom of the crisper. In that moment I realized that what holds me up in making more salads is the task of rinsing and spinning the lettuce. And then I realized that I was using Justine as my 'eat those greens' motivator.
Now, what in the world can be easier than dumping a bag of perfectly good (don't even need to sort through them) greens into the salad spinner (I even have a salad spinner and don't need to use a towel to dry off the greens, or deal with wet greens in my salad) to make a fresh salad for lunch?
You see, for me, it is easier to deal with the turnip and cabbage any day of the week vs lettuce. Why is this? The question I grapple with a lot is that of the effort involved.
Breakfast is an interesting one for us. Part of the effort I think is accepting the huge challenge of resistance until eventually it becomes habit for everyone in the household. There is nothing easier than opening a bag of dry cereal, adding milk and honey and done, breakfast is served. The issue for me is that cereal is expensive no matter which kind you purchase. We get a maximum of 3 mornings and a box is gone in our household at a minimum of $5 per box. Not to mention GMO or sugar content, etc. We started in September with oatmeal porridge. I purchased a very large bag (20kg around $50) from Speerville Mills in NB. I keep the bag in the freezer and have a jar that is easily accessible for each morning. Now that we (Josh and I) have a routine and have perfected the timing and the water to oats ratios, it is all good with the exception of children resisting. The interesting part of the resistance is that they do eat it but it seems to be that they hold on to the idea that enough resistance will lead to dry cereal again.....which is where we (Josh and I) come in again needing to be resolved in our position (because we too like to please our kiddos).
Certified Organic Oatmeal breakfast - approximately $0.27 per day (in our house)
Cheerios breakfast - approximately $1.75 per day (in our house)
At the farm one of the most common phrases we hear is with regards to the effort it takes to eat well. On the one hand I completely understand because there are some days when I just don't want to cook. But mostly, with the exception of lettuce washing or soaking beans overnight (because I usually forget about them) I find it has become easy to quickly cook food from raw ingredients.
I suppose, to wrap up, my thoughts are that the effort involved greatly depends on each of our perceptions, values and resolve to eat well. Once we establish the values, and the resolve our perception of effort seems to shift.
For any of you out there that feel eating all these vegetables or fruit is a lot of effort, you are not alone. Let's be sure to share those feelings and support each other in making it easier.
Thanks Justine. The salad was delicious.
Have a great week!
Today was the first time I really saw the "Community" part of our Community Shared Agriculture program in action. Tim C. is on holidays right now, and when he mentioned a while ago that he would be going, I offered to take care of his Saturday deliveries to the city and surrounding areas. Last week I went along with him to learn the route, and today the TapRoot Van and I headed out bright and early. Tim did all the navigating last week and I drove, but being told where to go and then remembering it when you're on your own are totally different things! I had my android phone with me so I could see where I was if I got lost.
A bit of background to why this is a big deal for me:
I have never taken the TapRoot Van on deliveries by myself (though I do have experience driving it and other large produce delivery vehicles, so I was comfortable at least!).
I moved to Nova Scotia from Calgary just over a year ago, and have only been in the city a handful of times since then!
Jon also went in to work today to plant parsnips and spinach and do some tilling, so he helped me load up the van (Tim is organized enough to often do this the night before, but we had a staff meeting last night and I was concerned about rushing myself and forgetting something, so I stored the pallets in the cooler overnight and loaded this morning). I left with enough time (8:18) to make a quick detour to Lee Valley as Jon and I needed some garden tools (and they have the BEST tools- not a plug, just an observation!). I made it to the first stop (Prospect Road Community Centre in Hatchet Lake) with 10 minutes to spare! I set up a little market of some fresh veggies from the farm and got to see all the shiny, happy members at PRCC, and everyone showed up! It took a little more time than anticipated putting away the market and saying goodbye to the last few members, so by the time I left, I was 10 minutes behind.
On the way to the next stop, I had to drop off a wholesale order to Highland Drive Storehouse Butchery and make a donation to SHYM, so I knew the timing would be tight. Would have given my left arm for a coffee by this point, too... but knew I didn't have the time to feed my caffeine urges. Unfortunately, despite the fact that Tim had pointed it out the butcher the week before, I have never been there, and there was a huge semi trailer parked in front of the building which stumped me for a while and caused me to do some circling of the area... wasting precious time! I ran (literally, picture me running half a block while parked in a no parking zone with three very heavy loads of produce) the order in and breathlessly delivered the invoice to the gal at the counter: I would have loved to have a look around and buy some delicious goodies, but had to get going! I second-guessed myself at the next turn and had to pull over to orient myself. Made it over the bridge and got the first turn right but fumbled the next one and had to get back on track. Had to skip the donation and still arrived to Emma's Eatery in Eastern Passage at 12:36 (6 minutes late!). There were a lot of very understanding folks already there waiting (apologies again, and thanks!!).
Set up a smaller version of the market at Emma's, and everyone came at this location, too! I was surprised, as I thought that there may be some folks who forgot or were away due to the long weekend. By 1:50 (10 minutes early!) all the names were crossed off and I hopped back in the van. Was just about to drive away and a car stopped with a couple interested in the veggies I had for sale. Hauled everything out again and she selected some greens, but needed to run to the Irving to get cash to pay... I put some faith in humankind at this point and asked if she could return next week with the cash so that I could make up some time on my route (just a note that people are always really shocked at this... like when I tell people that we don't hold deliveries to wait for payment... We just deliver your shares and trust that you will make your payments as close to on schedule as you can!).
So, I was laughing, on the road a full 4 minutes early thanks to the keen folks at Emma's. I backtracked a little bit and dropped off the donation boxes to SHYM (and a few extra this week, as I took an inventory and noticed that I had a few more than I needed). Continued on to Fall River... Or, so I thought. For some reason, I had it in my head that it was a straight shot north. It is not. I needed to take the exit that said "Airport: Truro", which I clearly remember Tim telling me, but did NOT remember in time to make the exit. I missed it, and then I second-guessed myself again and thought: "Surely the exit would SAY Fall River?". Soon enough, I was headed towards another bridge with no choice but to go over it and then turn around and backtrack (over the bridge again!)... Not a quickly accomplished feat, I must add!
At this point I was quite concerned, as I knew from being along on the deliveries last week that the people at Fall River are really excited and prompt, and it is a new location this year, too, so I didn't want them to be worried that I wasn't coming because of the long weekend or something. I thankfully arrived at the Fall River location at 2:37, a full 8 minutes early (sure enough, someone was waiting, but they thought it was supposed to be 2:30, so it was all good). It was a long hour at Fall River, as there's not a lot of folks at that location and I was hungry (hadn't eaten lunch yet), and had to pee (hadn't stopped all day!). After Fall River, I stopped and got a coffee and something to eat and got the bathroom sorted out.
The last stop was going back into the city to pick up the spent grain from Bridge Brewing. They have a committment to become a zero emissions brewery, and so we pick up the spent grain from their brewing process and feed it to our very appreciative pigs. Unfortunately, the brewery would be on the way my first time through the city, but the van is too full then, so we leave it until the end of the day. This should have been a piece of cake, as it is located in a spot of the city that I actually "know", as the CSA Jon and I ran last year had a couple stops in the area. I overestimated my navigation skills and got a bit turned around again, but made it. The two nicest guys ever at the brewery helped me load up the 5 tubs of grain (VERY heavy), and I was on my way home! I had zero recollection of the route Tim and I had taken home the week before. I don't think I took the most efficient way out of the city, but I made it out and was on the highway at 5:17 pm.
Stopped to fill up the van (it is everyone's responsibility to bring it back full), and Josh drove by me fuelling up in Greenwich, beeping the horn and waving. I was quite proud of myself making it home in one piece at this point, and pulled into the farm at 6:00 on the nose, just as I had told Jon, as he was waiting to give me a ride home (we are a single vehicle household). I unloaded the perishables and was lucky that the arrangement is for Jem to clean out the rest Monday morning, so I could go home after that. Stopped at the driveway market to restock and quality control check on the way home (it's open now, by the way: 8 am - 8 pm, 7 days a week), and was home and enjoying my first sip of beer at 6:48 pm.
The main point I am trying to make here, is not "Woe is me, what a crazy day", but more along the lines of: Holy Cow, Tim, Justine, and Jem work HARD to deliver your shares, and they're also on VERY tight schedules that don't allow any room for the unexpected (never mind a pee or coffee break!). So, if as a member you ever happen to find them running a few minutes behind, know that they are on their way, stressed and very aware that they are late, and doing all that they can to get there. I count myself lucky that I didn't encounter any road closures due to marathons or construction, and that I was never truly lost, just off-track. At the time I was embarrassed about having so much trouble, but I know next week will be a breeze in comparison, and that the good things from the day outweigh any sheepishness I feel about missing turns.
Some other observations:
Wow, do we ever have some good-lookin' CSA members! You are all so youthful and healthy-looking (must be those TapRoot veggies!). And friendly, and so excited to meet me! I felt like a superstar vegetable delivery lady all day!
Someone met me at SHYM and was glowing and clearly so excited to recieve the donation. We donate boxes to them when a member misses picking up a share (and even if no one misses that week, just to keep things flowing for them).
Halifax is in a different climate than the valley. All day, I battled intense wind (very noticeable in the tall TapRoot Van), and scattered showers, and pretty biting cold. As soon as I drove through Hantsport to my favourite view of the Minas Basin, the clouds cleared and the sun came out, like the valley was welcoming me home!
Cruise control rocks.
It is very helpful to the delivery drivers if members are able to let us know when they are not going to be able to make it to a delivery. Because of this, I was able to leave all three of my delivery locations today early. When you email me and let you know that you can't make it, I cross your name off of Tim's, Justine's, or Jem's list, and that way they know not to wait for you!
My iPod and I are reacquainted now, and I rocked out to awesome tunes all day (Jon and I do not have the same musical preferences, so it was nice to have full control of the stereo.)
Doing deliveries is a nice way to spend a Saturday once in a while, but it's a lot of work, and I have A LOT more appreciation for what Tim (and Justine and Jem) does each week... Not that I didn't before, but even more so now! It's also stressful and busy and break-less. I thought I'd have time to be taking photos and posting next week's shares from my smart phone, and I even brought A BOOK. I thought I might be bored. I was NOT bored.
I've said it before, but I truly mean it: TapRoot has -THE BEST- CSA members ever. Hands down. Thanks for being a part of this crazy-awesome alternative food system that gives you local food on yor tables and gives people you see each week-- like Justine, Tim, Jem and I-- and the people you may not see-- like the 25 other people in last night's staff meeting-- meaningful work. I feel like today was a special day for me in my local food journey, which is why I took the time to share it with all of you.
Thanks for reading! A big cheers, and I mean that literally!!