There is no melancholy quite like the ache of when summer turns to fall. So. Depressing. Thankfully, this is exactly when my CSA farmer hosts a yearly farm visit. I have been a member of Stoneledge Farm in South Cairo, New York for eight years now, but (no) thanks to work, countless weddings, births, and infants (in that order), I haven't been able to make an autumn pilgrimage in seven or eight years (parenthood makes memory foggy). My daughter has had so much fun picking up our weekly veggie and fruit deliveries at the local Y this year that I was determined to show her where, exactly, her food comes from. So I cleared the calendar. And we went. My fingers are still stained with dirt and raspberry juice as I type. I didn't want to miss the opportunity to write happy -- for the first time in a long time I'm feeling elated.
It's not an easy time to be an organic mom (or anyone else for that matter). In this pre-election frenzy, I find myself worrying about the fate of the earth my daughter has inherited more than ever. If certain people get in office, what will her future look like? There's so much focus on motherhood and babies suddenly but will she even have the luxury of having her own baby? What will the world be like then? Usually I curb these fears by throwing myself further and further into the green movement, research, and trying to educate and indoctrinate as many people as I can.
Attempting to live green can be a Wild West experience. But my food has never felt questionable. For almost a decade now during growing season (mid-June to Thanksgiving), my weekly CSA deliveries of fresh, local, seasonal, sustainable, organic produce have truly been the highlight of my life. As odd as this sounds, I feel honored by the bounty, proud to be a part of a farm, delighted to have this access. Knowing where my food comes from and who grows it in this day and age has always felt like a miracle. Sacred and necessary. It's importance was underscored when I was pregnant, and hosting a growing being, and also when I was offering my daughter her first foods. My farmer, Deb Kavakos, is featured in The Complete Organic Pregnancy. Keeping conventional pesticides out of the earth and away from farmers and their families is one of the main reasons - including my own health - I choose organic, and urge others to, too. Speaking with my farmer, seeing where she lives and how she works, and meeting her children drives this message home further. No one should have to expose themselves to harsh chemicals to earn a living. There are many other simple yet crucial reasons for being a CSA member - the vegetables are delicious and nutritious. I could get similar specimens by shopping exclusively in farmers' markets, but CSA goes a step further. And it's a step that brings my urban life as close to a farm as it can get: members share the brunt of bad weather, infestations, bumper crops. Each year, we members get varying amounts of the basics, depending on the sun and the rain. At a market, even I probably wouldn't choose to buy greens dotted with insect holes, but I eat them voraciously when they come from my CSA. They're not picture perfect - why have we all been programmed to think things that grow in the dirt are supposed to look polished and blemish-free? -- but they're beyond tasty. And there's something so beautiful and full circle about picking up these vegetables week after week, cooking and eating - together -- the enormity we get down until just as our vegetable bin looks empty-ish, we pick up more. This ritual is the core of my household. Tuesdays - our delivery day - are filled with promise. Sunday nights, there's always a rush to make and feast on whatever we haven't yet eaten.
But I digress. When we arrived at the farm I was amazed to see it was enormous compared to when I saw it last. I know from my general involvement with CSA in New York City that the demand for farm shares is high and growing. But I had no idea that my farmers had been expanding and expanding. As one of my farmer's sons walked a bunch of us through their fields he said that they could keep expanding - the demand was there - but there was only so much work they could do. I've been looking hard for good news lately and here it was, delivered to me with a shrug, somewhere between the rows of tomatillos and yet-to-be picked winter squash. I'm sure someone will burst my bubble, but I'm going to take this success story as indicative of a larger movement towards local sustainable food, of a growing number of educated consumers voting with their dollars. I'm generally skeptical, pessimistic even, but watching my daughter race around with the urban kids of other parents who go out of their way to eat this way, I thought, Yes we can.
Although my farmers really only grow (glorious) vegetables, through them and their connections and JustFood, an organization that brings CSA to New York City, I now have access to local meat, honey, syrup, fruit, bread, and even flowers. Thanks to them, I cannot remember the last time I entered a supermarket near me for anything more than a desperate toilet paper run. I thought about all of this as I walked the fields that have nourished me - and now my family - for almost a decade. I felt profoundly grateful. I was moved to silence.
The silence was partially a food coma - we wandered around stuffing our faces with tomatoes. Sun gold cherries in particular. They're starting to split and fall to the ground. So we were allowed to have our fill. And we did. They also loosened the ground in an area filled with carrots so we could pull them up. And pull we did, looking like a bunch of silly out of place New Yorkers, holding up bunches with grins on our faces, and snapping a zillion digital shots of each other, orange prizes in hand. No matter. It was a great moment. And the carrots tasted exactly like carrots should.
The kids took turns sitting on a big tractor, adults and kids alike split garlic into cloves for next years harvest, and there were beehive and maple syrup demonstrations. My daughter (with help) caught a toad, a grasshopper, several ladybugs, played with gourds, and ran free - filthy, happy, wild.
And when my farmer mentioned global warming and how certain pig/bulldog lipstick-ed VP candidates don't believe in it, detailing her own experience with the wonky weather and its effect on her crops, it didn't dampen my newly positive outlook. I was too blissed out. Then, we piled back in our Zipcar and headed up the road to pick four full pounds of raspberries in a patch in her yard, which was humming and buzzing with healthy, busy bees.
The leaves reminded me of the (horrible tasting) organic red raspberry leaf tea I drank and drank when I was pregnant because it is believed to be a uterine tonic and, well, why not? I even considered taking some home to dry in the event that the right people make it into the White House and make me feel safe enough that if I tried for a second child, she or he would be able to live fully, eat locally, grow up with like-minded peers and, if desired, create another generation without fear.
P.S. If you happen to be in or around Brooklyn at 1 p.m. on Thursday September 18th, come hear me talk about creating a non-toxic home environment at GreenBrooklyn.
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