The email came from my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture): come, help us harvest crops on the farm and we’ll pay you in extra produce. Given that I live in the woods and can never produce more than two tomatoes a year, how could I pass up an offer like that?
So one sunny Friday morning I drove out to the country. I followed directions and found myself on a dirt road, driving back into…a giant garden. The CSA I belong to is run by The Center for Community Empowerment , headed by Michael Hicks. He put me to work immediately digging up potatoes under a row of hay.
Michael explained that they plant the potatoes a bit shallow and then cover them with the hay to create a mulch protector. So all I had to do was pull off the hay, put it in piles by the row (the hay will be used later for more mulch and compost) and put the potatoes in a crate. It was cool when I started the day, but after a couple of hours, I began peeling off layers in the warm autumn sun.
Working in agriculture is not for everyone. Michael said that he had had some people come out to the farm to help him and left after 15 MINUTES! How is it that folks can work out in a gym for hours but can’t dig or pick a few vegetables?
But no matter, it was a lovely day, I was happy to be out in the sun working and the promise of extra produce for my efforts was sweet. Even better were the fried potatoes we got to eat at lunch, freshly dug and cleaned. My turkey sandwich and apple never left the car.
Later that afternoon we covered the rows of kale with small hoops and plastic, preparing for the upcoming cold nights. It was hard to imagine frost and cold when I looked out over the lovely rows of multi-colored greens.
Six hours after I arrived it was time to go. True to his word, Michael loaded me up with potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, greens, peppers, and pumpkins!! Lots and lots of pumpkins!! He was very excited to hear that my chickens love greens and tomatoes, so I got POUNDS extra of cracked tomatoes, split or undersized cabbages and damaged greens. He was glad that less food would go to waste, as I imagine it must be frustrating to see even one tomato not get used after you work so hard to grow it.
Seeing where my vegetables have been coming from this summer was, well, rewarding. I have renewed admiration for anyone who can make a living off the land. Its hard work, just plain hard work. But its also worth the effort when you see what you have produced, touched it, arranged it and, ultimately, sold it to pay for the next generation of food.
I thought I was used to hard work from the chickens, but this takes it to another level. I fell asleep in a chair at 8 p.m. Still, if and when the call comes again, I’ll be there if I can.