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Reflections on the 2014 CSA season

October 17, 2014 8:21 pm

 

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One of the weekly baskets of vegetables of our CSA

“What’s in there this week?” asks the young girl holding the door for me. Kendra, who’s mom works at the Boys and Girls Club, is often my receiving committee when I come to drop off the weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) baskets. She is asking about the variety of veggies that are overflowing the sides of the half bushel basket in my arms. Kendra has seen unfamiliar vegetables like fennel and bok choi as well as more standard ones like lettuce, beets and kale. Her favorites are the blueberry cherry tomatoes, a variety that turn blue and purple as they ripen.

This was a regular scene for our weekly drop off of shares at both the Waynesboro and Staunton Boys and Girls Club Sites throughout the summer. The CSA is one way that we sell our Project GROWS vegetables. In the CSA model, customers pay at the beginning of the year for a share of vegetables. Then, for eighteen weeks during the summer, they receive a weekly basket of whatever vegetables are in season and ready for harvest at the farm. Last year, Project GROWS had five CSA members join the program. This year, twenty-one! The increase in shares has corresponded to higher production on the farm and more community awareness about Project GROWS.

Supporting our educational and social mission to improve health in the community was a big reason that so many customers signed up this year. Youth involvement makes our CSA unique. Not only are kids who come out to the farm involved in planting, cultivating and harvesting vegetables, but the customers also pick their veggies up at the Boys and Girls Club. The pick-up is a brief moment where customers and youth can interact. One 2014 customer says: “Beyond the variety of good produce and the satisfaction of supporting PG’s important mission, I looked forward to walking through the Boys and Girls Club each Tuesday. There was such unabashed joy and fun being had by each child and adult present.”

This summer’s CSA has been a wonderful and true journey through the season. Some weeks, I’m sure our customers were tired of swiss chard or wished for more tomatoes. Some of the vegetables we hoped to grow and include in the basket were lost to squash bugs or irrigation failure or swept aside to make room for additional youth programming. But there were also weeks of abundance, beautiful flower bouquets, and for us, a pervasive sense of pride as we filled those baskets as a team.

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The Project GROWS team has fun packing CSA shares!

In color and verdant vitality, our CSA was meant to help spread the mission and magic of Project GROWS into 21 homes and beyond. Growing nutritious, fresh food is hard, and part of what we hope to do is to educate the community about how precious it is. Do you know whose hands picked the beans you bought from the grocery store? Do you know how that farmer treated his land? Do you know if that food was picked that very morning?

These are the questions that our society is beginning to ask. And our CSA has been one small success for food that is healthy for us, our environment and our children.

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Youth visitors to the farm pick cucumbers as part of an educational summer program activity

Little Things

September 5, 2014 7:16 pm

Reflections on the summer from Project GROWS team member Roger Woo

Sometimes, when rainbows spring from leaking hoses
The bees whisper to the bean,
“Butterflies are a gift that flutters in the wind
Watching seeds gather at its whisper”

Winnowing lettuce seed to save for next year

Winnowing lettuce seed to save for next year

 

Sometimes, Death walks in the shadow of our hoes
As row cover billows in surrender
Sorrel is a smile that brings our hearts together
When our arms drop weary with bounty

 

Wood Sorrel

Wood Sorrel

 

Farming is hard, sweaty, and aching work. Add to our farm tasks the responsibilities of youth programming and farmers markets, it’s hard to believe our weeks ever end. The to-do list is endless, unceasing, and repetitive. You have to love the little things. Thinning tray after tray of baby lettuces. Chasing down errant row cover as it takes off in the breeze. Marvelling at perfect bundles of lettuce seed as they detach from a flower. And kids. Lots and lots of kids.

Since January, we’ve worked with over 900 kids. Many of them have only been to the farm once. But some have visited us weekly all summer long. When they discover a potato growing underground for the very first time, or when they tell us their favourite plant is “the one with the little hearts”, we relive the wonder and miracle of the natural world together. When they ask us, “May I please eat another pea?”, while they’re munching on a raw bell pepper, or when they share that Project GROWS would be even better if the bugs stopped eating the plants, I have to contain my excitement for fear that I’ll scare them away. When they come back next week and demand, “Where’s the kimchi, we want some more!”, I know we’ve done a good job of introducing them to farm-fresh vegetables.

It's a potato!

It’s a potato!

 

The Project GROWS day is a collection of magical moments. When nobody’s looking, we play at being alchemists: keepers of an ancient vow that binds Earth to Sun. The humble seed is our philosopher’s stone – a perfect catalyst in the alchemy of light and clay. We summon strength from the sun, and channel power from the Earth. We drink the rainy elixir of gods and bask in the glow of the moon. In time, our seeds manifest into flavour, and through the cradle of seasons, renew themselves once more.

Make no mistake: putting food on the table is hard work. But being outside all day, flying my bike downhill with my arms spread wide, and watching the sunset every week?

I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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