Hooray, it’s finally summer! Which means it’s time to head back to our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for spinach, garlic scapes, turnips, pea pods, herbs, strawberries, and all sorts of wonderful lettuces. As the summer progresses, we’ll get tomatoes, carrots, peppers, beans, edamame if we’re lucky, and all sorts of other wonderful veggies as well as flowers and more herbs. The year winds down in the fall with squashes and pumpkins, potatoes, beets and other harvest-time goodies. Through the winter we visit the root cellar for carrots, beets and lots of root vegetables. Solstice rituals, harvest festivals, and other events pepper the year and bring members together to celebrate the farm in a festive environment.
We’ve been going to “the farm,” as it is affectionately called, since my daughter Daisy was tiny. We figured that even if she didn’t eat much of the produce, she would at least get the experience of the place. I used to carry her in my front-pack as I bagged up the week’s goods, or headed into the fields to gather herbs and pick-your-own crops like tomatoes, raspberries, and green beans. As she got older, she preferred to play on the toy tractor, dig in the sandbox with friends, watch the big kids catch frogs at the pond, or dip her toes into the cool stream that meanders through the cow pasture.
The children’s garden, started last year, is a new favorite spot. Located conveniently near the barn where the week’s produce is distributed, the kids disappear in there and read in the teepee covered with scarlet runner beans and gourd plants, admire the flowers, or pluck and eat cherry tomatoes. The biggest draw of all is pulling and munching on purple carrots. There’s nothing as kid friendly as a purple carrot, fresh from the ground. Wash it off, use the greens as a handle, and voila, a perfect fresh-from-the-garden snack.
Thanks to the farm, we’ve tasted new foods and tried new recipes, such as oven-roasted crispy kale, stuffed peppers, and sauteed turnips and escarole. Some have gone over like a ton of bricks: Daisy detested the kale, and it smelled up the whole house something awful. Others are household favorites: barbecued corn, zucchini pasta, peas straight from the pod. Daisy has tried new veggies with various results: she’ll only eat a cherry tomato fresh off the vine. The ones we bring home are of no interest and might as well be a different food altogether. Strawberries, warmed by the sun and eaten right in the field are like “sweet sugar,” according to Daisy. Raspberries are another favorite, and we often consume our share before even leaving the confines of the bushes. A piece of lettuce, however, has yet to pass Daisy’s lips, and she continues to turn up her nose at spinach, no matter how kid-friendly I try to make it.
Thanks to the farm, we now eat with the seasons. When I was a kid, we ate strawberries year-round. I never knew that they grew in the spring. The food I ate came from the A&P. That’s where all food came from. It was grown somewhere else… where, I had no idea. The only thing I ever attempted to grow myself was a crystal in a jar of sugar water. Things have changed a lot since then! I want Daisy to have a connection with her food, with the seasons, with the earth.
And thanks to the farm, we now do a bit of our own farming: we grow pea-pods and carrots in containers on our back deck. Daisy loves eating the bitty baby carrots, and she could eat endless peas right out of the pods. At our plot in our town’s community garden we have purple and green beans, tomatoes, peppers, and melons soaking up the sunshine. This year we even decided to try a bean tent, and the scarlet runner beans are quickly wending their way up the poles.
Our farm is like family. We are all in it together, it is our shared investment. The money we put up in the winter goes to buy seeds and necessary materials. If the weather gods cooperate and the crops do well, we all bring home a bigger share. If the potato crop fails or the tomatoes succumb to blight, we have to shoulder the failures as well. But rain or shine, our farm is a community, a place to learn, connect, and grow.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dana “Dee” Pilson
Dee lives with her professor husband and young daughter in rural Pownal, Vermont, just over the state line from Williamstown, Massachusetts. She is an art historian and has worked in museums in New York City, Boston, and Williamstown. She has been an avid writer since the tender age of eight, filling journals with personal essays and short stories, as well as mounds of poetry, both serious and whimsical. New Yorker by birth, New Hampshire-ite by schooling, and now Vermonter by choice, Dee writes about art and architecture, the environment, books, food, exercise, travel, and green living. Her new blog, “The Power of One,” focuses on issues related to parenting an only child in today’s child-centric world. firstname.lastname@example.org