Thursday, November 18, 2010

last farmshare pickup

Tonight marked the end of a season. It was our last farmshare pickup. We were back to mostly greens, as it had been when it started in June – lettuce, escarole, kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, radishes, garlic and scallions. But unlike in June, it was already dark when we arrived. Even in the blackness, I could see that the plants had been cut down and the fields lay bare waiting for next year. It was lonely driving up the gravel road in the dark, only one car outside of the lighted barn. It was such a contrast to the summer months, when I sometimes I had trouble finding parking, and families and couples strolled the fields, collecting their flowers, hot peppers and herbs.

This is the third year I’ve belonged to the farmshare. It was an incredible year in terms of bounty. We have only a half share, yet were getting over 10 pounds of organic tomatoes per week for weeks on end. There was no way I could use anywhere near that much (sometimes we received nearly 20 pounds), so despite giving many away, my freezer is now bulging with freezer bags filled with tomatoes.

But my favorite part of the farmshare this year was the way River was able to participate. I considered joining a farm that drops the shares off at a local natural food store. It would certainly save time and gas to not have to go to the farm myself. But I find participating in the connection between the earth and my nourishment is good for my soul. I love the smell of the air in the field, the sight of the vegetables hanging from tendrils, and the resin that sticks on my hand after picking cherry tomatoes. I like knowing that the food I eat was just pulled from the earth that day. Best of all was giving River that connection.

I arranged my schedule so that I’d have the car on the farm pickup day and could leave work on the earlier side, allowing me to pick up River and get to the farm before traffic got too bad. He accompanied me most weeks, helping me to pick peas and tomatoes, to cut flowers and herbs, to weigh lettuce, arugula, cauliflower, potatoes and sweet potatoes, to collect peppers and tomatoes and greens. In the course of one season, he learned more about the origins of his food than I knew when I went to college.

He’s still only 2, but he knows that you pick tomatoes when they are red, and blueberries when they are blue (“no verdes!” he says). I allow him to use the garden shears and he is capable of cutting flowers on his own. He can use tongs to put objects on a scale and he understands the concept of measurement. He took such joy in the collection of flowers, arranging them in the vase, smelling them and admiring them through the week. He understands that flowers die and can be replaced with new growths. He understands that no more vegetables will be growing until the spring comes. He recognizes a corn stalk and knows if the corn has been removed.

We recently started to stop by a nearby dairy farm to buy eggs, meat and cheese (once I got over the price shock of real farm eggs and decided it was worth it). There he saw the cows milked and the origins of his milk. He now makes a point of making clear that his milk comes from cow teats. During our visit this evening, he asked why chicks hatch from some eggs and other eggs are eaten.

I suppose for a two-year-old farm child, this would all be common knowledge. Perhaps I’m overly impressed because I was so far removed from this world during my childhood. I grew up near a sheep farm and would visit it sometimes. So I had a decent idea of how wool is shorn. But with the exception of a short stint with a garden plot, I didn’t have a clue about where my food came from or how it was produced. Nor did my parents seem to care much. I grew up on white bread, Jell-o, and iceberg lettuce.

I think it’s exciting and beautiful to watch my child understand this connection and to participate in the process. For this reason, even though my schedule is going to be tighter and my responsibilities greater by next farm season, I plan to sign up again and take River for weekly excursions to pick up our food from the source. I can’t wait to share in this time with him again.

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