In my adult life I have gone from urban dweller to country/burbs dweller, back to urban dweller, to my current status somewhere in between as resident of Brooklyn, NY, where not only does a tree grow, but flowers and food as well. When I lived rurally, I dabbled in growing veggies then I discovered CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). CSAs got started in the US over twenty years ago. In that time, I’ve been a member of three different CSAs. I love the communal aspect of it, the access to healthy seasonal foods, and being able to support a local farmer.
My daughter, Sophie, took an anthropology class in college this year called, “Feast or Famine.” She was given the assignment to write a paper about a food memory. She wrote about her memories of the CSA we belonged to when she was a young child in rural New Jersey. At 19, she now realizes that belonging to a CSA in the 1990s was atypical. Here’s an excerpt from her paper:
“At a young age, my mother started taking me with her on her weekly pilgrimages to the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Farm. The farm was about twenty minutes from our home. When we got there, my sister and mom and I would pick up our pre-paid share of vegetables from the farm stand and then go out into the fields to pick certain items ourselves. Once there, I loved helping mom pick out the best cherry tomatoes, snow peas, and strawberries straight from the ground. Sometimes I would snack on our pickings after my mom splashed the raw item with a little water to clean off the dirt.When we would return home, mom would make dinner. Being vegetarians, vegetables were the focal point of our meal, so the farm fresh produce was naturally featured. This exposure to both traditional and not so traditional fruits and vegetables at a young age seriously contributed to my adventurous appetite. How many children under the age of ten can say they have tried mesculin lettuce before iceberg, okra before string beans and turnips before carrots? My sister and I were by no means picky eaters.
As much as I loved going to the farm when I was little, I do not think I really appreciated how fortunate I was to partake in such an interesting and important experience. I grew up with ultra-fresh, organic, locally grown produce and in my mind that was the norm. I just assumed that the food sold at ShopRite was the same as the food from the farm when, in actuality, how and where these items were grown differed significantly and this then contributed to the quality and taste. I was too young then for it to make a difference to me. All I knew was, a day on the farm was a lot more fun than an hour in ShopRite. “
For the past three years, we’ve belonged to a CSA through the Garden of Eve Farm on Long Island. Last year my daughter got a chance to be a farmer when she lived and worked there as a volunteer/intern for her high school senior project. Like our visits to the farm when she was a child, the experience of growing her own food, has created a lasting memory.
There have been times when I’ve spent nearly an hour sifting through and cleaning away the dirt on my CSA pick up. At first I found it tedious, but through the years, I’ve found it therapeutic. When I find a worm, I know my food is going to be especially tasty.
Being part of a CSA as an urban dweller has been wonderful. Then I got an opportunity to get a coveted spot in a community garden right across the street from my Brooklyn home, where I am once again challenging myself by growing a garden of my own! You can’t get more local than that!