On Friday night I got a “final reminder” to attend a meeting I’d never heard about before, the orientation for our local CSA.
In March, I pitched the idea to my Patient Husband, who asked, “What’s a CSA?” I said, “It’s where you give money up-front to a farm, and then as they harvest things during the summer, you get a portion of it. So you’re eating a lot of seasonal vegetables, but they’re organic and fresh, and they’re locally produced, and you’re supporting a farm.” He said, “Great, but what does CSA stand for?” and I had to go looking it up while my Patient Husband stood behind me saying things like “Communists Stuff for Alimentation.”
Turns out it’s Community Supported Agriculture, and it’s a big thing around here. Angelborough has maybe five thousand residents, and the CSA seems to have five hundred members and a 90% retention rate. I never realized how much everyone loved Angelborough Farms.
So I came home from the orientation filled with trivia about how a farm works and how a CSA works and what kinds of goodies we’ll be bringing home, and how Mrs. Farmer says the stuff straight from the field is better than the stuff from the grocery store (she has to say that because, you know, otherwise she’d shut down and go to Costlies like the rest of us).
The owner of the farm took over about eight years ago, and apparently before she was allowed to buy the farm, she had to present a community vision to our Council Of Elders (or whoever is running this place) and demonstrate how she’d be nurturing the land and sheilding the environment from certain destruction.
At this my Patient Husband laughed. “This is so East Coast American.”
I paused. “Why?”
He said, “Because everyone around here wants to farm, but no one wants to dig.” He lived in the midwest for over a decade. “Back home, the farmers didn’t wax poetic about seasonal eating and nurturing community spirit. They fed the animals, milked them, slaughtered them, planted the wheat, grew the wheat, cut down the wheat, and planted more wheat. And if you wanted to grow tomatos and squash and snap peas, you went out back with a trowel and you dug.”
I said, “Well, this makes sense. None of us wants to get dirty.”
He said, “Everyone here thinks farming is important, so we’ve all figured out a way we can support agriculture without actually changing anything about our lifestyles.”
A non-American friend of mine once accompanied me to a farm outside Angeltown. I said, “You’ll like this. You can feed the goats and the sheep, walk through the fields, watch the kids play in the hay maze, and pick your own apples.”
My friend replied, “Let me get this straight: you’re pretending to farm?”
It wasn’t until that moment when I realized — that’s pretty much it. The main method of survival for thousands of years is now an afternoon’s entertainment and a five dollar admission fee.
But this summer, it’s not just entertainment. It’s also food. Once a week we go to the CSA and will harvest the bounty of the land from the bins in the barn. Potatoes: Take Five Pounds. And yeah, we’re farming without getting our hands dirty.