This week's guest post comes to us from Madeline Guzman, newsletter coordinator and member of Hazon CSA in Rockville, MA.
Tikvat Israel has now experienced almost three seasons of CSA produce. For most of us, being part of a CSA has been a new experience. The reaction to participating in our CSA has ranged from ecstatic to greatly disappointing. Those who have enjoyed the experience are
signing up for the next season. Those of us less pleased are either dropping out or giving the CSA “another chance”. This has led me to think about what each of us is expecting of a CSA. If one comes into this experience expecting a delivery of the “right” quantity of vegetables in perfect size, shape, and flavor that are most enjoyed by your family, you may be disappointed. If one comes into this experience learning to accept what the land produces, one might be amazed by what the earth (and our farmer) have to offer.
As our summer CSA season drew to a close, I reflected on the responses to the produce received by our members. I’m not sure everyone fully appreciates the meaning of a CSA. To me, it means the shared responsibility for bringing fresh food to our table. In conjunction with my CSA membership (and inspired by Danny Bachman), my husband and I started a vegetable garden. Like the experiences of both Danny and Pam Stegall, our CSA farmer, not all has gone according to plan. Some of our produce came out unlike what we expected, some better than expected, and a few crops were even a total loss. The results in my own vegetable garden were probably a mini-experience of what Pam feels throughout her growing season. The difference is that her commitment is to many more people than my own.
True, CSA produce is not perfect. The pesticides and fungicides used on conventional produce do not protect organic produce. Sometimes this means being very careful to wash away animal pests or cut away a damaged portion of a vegetable. Like us, animal pests (and even bacteria and fungus) find our veggies tasty! We need to be a bit gentler and forgiving of what the earth produces.
One particular Hazon CSA in Tenafly NJ, has been hit particularly hard this year. When Steve Golden (Tenafly’s site coordinator) visited the farm, he saw first hand the inexplicable fact that the beets did not grow, despite being planted in the best soil of that particular field. Indeed, the other rootcrops – turnips, carrots and radishes – did not really produce. So too the arugula, as well as the broccoli – which looks like it had some leaf disease which limited its growth. Not to mention the horrible late blight that killed all of our tomatoes and those in neighboring Rockland County and throughout the Northeast.
Crestfallen, Ted (another one of our famers) brought us the few cherry tomatoes which were not completely rotting in the field even though they too were infected (if you left it on your counter to ripen, as we did, the blight overtook the little fellow overnight). We all sympathize with the Stephens who will now have to pull up all the myriad tomato plants and burn them. What a great shame – so much painstaking care and tending going up in smoke. Thankfully, the squash did much better, although the green zucchini harvest was only a fraction of what we would have had if the season were “normal”. That goes for the first planting of cucumbers and string beans. All in all, the spring/summer harvest has been a devastating experience for the Stephens family. (excerpted from The Jew and the Carrot blog, “A Difficult Summer: A Letter from the Tuv Ha’aretz in Tenafly” by Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster)
Reading afterward about the support provided to the devastated farming family in this situation was heartwarming. My point is simply that CSA members are literally sharing the successes and failures of farm life. So, dear members, thank you for thinking hard before you commit yourselves to this practice and immersing yourselves in it completely once you have.