The CSA: Weeks 16-18

And just like that, we’re done.

This week, our vegetables came with a note. “Thanks for everything, sign up for the Fall CSA.” Or something like that. It wasn’t a sad, misty-eyed moment or anything, but it felt like a grand experiment had come to an end.

It hadn’t, though. Instead, a new habit formed. Over the past 18 weeks, we’ve been lucky enough to have fresh, locally grown produce for half of what it would cost at the grocery store. We received a constant supply of whatever was in season. Carrots. Onions. Radishes. Whatever was ready for harvest, we were ready to receive.

And we learned a lot about vegetables. Naturally.

We are thankful that some of our veggies lasted longer than a few weeks. Some are still lasting right now. We have stocked up on potatoes and onions and other root vegetables. Like, for a month. Or more. They’re just sitting there, staring at us with all of those eyes.

Looking back, I discovered a love for raw carrots – garden carrots, naturally – that I had always suspected but was enforced by constant availability. I never knew there could be so many different types of potatoes and onions. I came to the realization that you can have too many tomatoes. That you can have too many of anything, really.

We changed our cooking habits. We were used to the typical vegetarian style of generic, quick cooking, which throws several different types of produce together in one stir-fry/stew type dish. Over the summer, unknowing as we were, we sought out recipes for beets and kohlrabi and pumpkin and found ourselves creating nearly single-vegetable dedicated meals.

We learned to cook more simply. With the vegetables we received, we had to enforce a more simple approach. We had little need to go to the grocery store. Instead, we pulled from our large stockpile of pantry staples, finally finding a use for things we had purchased long ago and never used. Our grocery bills went down – not just because we weren’t purchasing produce, but because we were simply using what we had. It was the beginnings of a pantry raid. And it has served to change our outlook on cooking meals.

Still, we have a lot of work ahead of us. Planning meals is hit and miss. The uncertainty of knowing exactly what we got left us to plan on Sunday, which often just left us not planning at all. To take full advantage of a bag full of potatoes, knowing full well that another bag will be coming in just seven days, has the feeling of a work deadline.

Above all, it just felt good to reap the CSA harvest. To me, it was always more than just food. It was more than an extended garden, a supplement to the mess we have growing in the backyard. Instead, I saw this as giving back, to supporting someone who is tethered to the ever-changing roller coaster cycle of farming, who depends on weather that has no need to cooperate and factors that live off of a farm’s suffering.

Even if it was just a couple hundred dollars, only about $10 a week for nearly 20 weeks, it was our way of supporting a small farm. And in return for that support, we received the fruits (vegetables?) of their harvest, the lifeblood of the independent farmer: produce, fresh from the ground, plucked from the vine, ripened naturally, stored on site and treated to only water, fertilizer and love.

It was worth it. On so many levels. And now the only thing I wonder is what next year will bring.

This was lovingly handwritten on September 29th, 2008