Our farmer is sick.
Community Supported Agriculture provides the relationship. You buy a share of a particular farm’s harvest at the start of the season. They get the cash to do the upfront work, and you get a weekly supply of vegetables fresh from the farm—more or less, depending on what’s growing well that season.
We tried one several years ago but it wasn’t a perfect fit, since I can supply a lot of our vegetable needs from my little community garden plot. But then I heard of another one that offered a winter farm share—winter vegetables, eggs, meat, cheese, and granola. Now this wouldn’t compete with my summer harvest—and we were delighted to start picking up our box every Saturday at the local farmer’s market and eating more good local food. When spring rolled around, we took advantage of their flexibility to order just a half summer share, with extra eggs. This complemented my garden well and kept the meat, cheese, and granola coming. Though sometimes we had more eggs than we knew what to do with, it was a problem I was happy to have.
Then one week we got a message that there would be no delivery that Saturday. Remembering the time in the winter when they’d missed a week because the husband had pneumonia, I went to their website, and learned that the impetus for starting their CSA had been his serious illness. The family could no longer manage the relentless daily demands of a dairy farm.
Switching to vegetables would allow a little more flexibility and a chance to save the family farm. I wondered if this missed Saturday delivery had anything to do with his health.
Sadly, I was right. We got an apologetic note from the wife (an equal in the business), saying they’d had a medical emergency, but would be back the next week. Late in August, as I was struggling to find someone to pick up our farm share when we would be away, I decided to check the website before looking farther afield. I found a one-line note at the bottom of the page saying there would be no pick-up that Saturday. While this solved my little problem, it didn’t make me happy. I was sure things were not well for this family. I kept checking the website. No pick up the next Saturday. Or the next. Then came a delivery, along with a note. The husband had had a bad reaction to medication, had been seizing and gone onto life support. The wife had been with him in the hospital for three weeks. Thankfully he was no longer in immediate danger. Unfortunately there was no granola because the grandmother had been in the fields. They would extend the season three weeks and apologized again for the inconvenience.
Inconvenience? How could I claim any inconvenience compared to what her family was going through? This, I reflected, is the real meaning of being part of Community Supported Agriculture. Food has a context. It’s grown by real people in real places, under real conditions. When winter storms close the roads, they can’t get to market. If late blight had struck, as was feared, we wouldn’t have gotten any tomatoes. When a farm family has serious illness, their work is disrupted.
In a way, I don’t think she should be extending the season. After all, we signed up for better or for worse— knowing that some years are better than others. This was a hard year. I would be willing to go without that box of fresh farm food for three weeks if that would help this family pull through.
It seems a small price to pay to support the real live people who are providing for our sustenance—to be a vital and aware part of such a vital community.
I could go on and on about how important it is to know where our food comes from, to buy locally, to appreciate fruit and vegetables in season, to avoid excessive processing and packaging, to challenge agribusiness and toxic pesticides. But mostly, my heart just goes out to this farm family, and I hope for the best for them in these hard times.