Community Agriculture

What first drew me to CSA farming was the A. Specifically Autumnal Agriculture. I spent October 2000 and October 2002 in Purcellville Virginia working at Potomac Vegetable Farms. While heavy, humid July can easily dampen the romantic farming spirit, crisp, quiet Octobers are awesome. Farming, bedecked in glowing, golden Autumn colors, most feels like the idyll of Eden. The slow and deliberate sun sends once-numb fingers unbuttoning and stripping off layers. Great Summer efforts turn black from the first frosty night, retiring into the abyss to emerge in another lifetime. With the fallen annual successes also falls pride. One must stand humble and amazed before the whirring wheel of life to death. The earth is soft and sweet, settling into its seeming Winter slumber. Still tired at the end of the day—which comes so much sooner—I can see nothing so beautiful as the gift of farm and food.
The farming pursuit is full of purpose; you do not have to eat Rally’s, but you do have to eat. Fostering life that wants to live is also ennobling and enlightening; at work are great mysteries and, though the cycles spin round and round, always in abundance are surprises. Although our culture prefers to portray farmers as simpleminded and uncivilized, I have come to know many farmers as deep, creative thinkers, masters of ingenuity, deft managers of spontaneity, encyclopedias of diverse knowledge, modestly melding in with the marvels of the world.
Already allured by good work that challenges body, mind, and soul, I next discovered the equally enriching Community aspect of CSA. In Silt, Colorado, I worked at Peach Valley CSA Farm for the 2004 growing season. Whereas PVF in Virginia was 20 acres of produce and numerous full-time workers through the Summer, PVF Colorado was a single couple and a single apprentice, me. From Ken and Gail Kuhns of Peach Valley, I learned (among many other things) that small is, in fact, a superlative. Over the course of 25 years, the Kuhns’ farm had become a hub of good energy, a loving institution in the community, rippling its positive way through the Rocky Mountains. Working shares, who loved the farm, brought their children, who loved the farm and its strawberries. I could see nothing more important than generations of children growing up in and being nourished by the Kuhns’ embrace. Imagine 10 million farms blessing all our babies with wholesome food and good roots, a place to belong.
(The S in CSA is seems to be less defined. Shared/Supported/Smiling/Sustained/Shaped. What is your preferred S-word?)
I could see then no higher calling than CSA farmer, and so, seven years into A Place on Earth CSA, I still aspire to be one. Perhaps I will go to the grave still feeling like something of an imposter as a farmer. But I do see small signs sometimes that I am headed in the right direction. This past Tuesday, I was packing CSA boxes with one of our working shares, Ben, and his 3-year old daughter, Bailey. Over the last 7 years, we have had very few visits from young children, aside from potlucks. But twice in the last week we have had a brilliant toddler mind in our midst. Ben and Bailey were bagging tomatoes—a simple, mundane task that happens twice a week. But this time it was different. Each tomato was special and deliberately counted. Certain tomatoes looked like hotdogs and each one needed a gentle reminder, “Gentle.”
But what I heard several times that really caught my ear, that made my day, that made me feel that something even more important that food producing was going on, was. “This is fun.” Hardly any adult would ever utter such a thing. But come to think of it, I thought and think, this is fun. This is what I want to sustain. When we share good work and good food, feel purposeful and invigorated, problem-solve and smile-make, we are living up to the spirit of CSA. Whatever the dire straits in the manic world around, we have found some common ground and are sowing a few good seeds for the future.
New chicks
Six of the last seven Februarys we have received a box of beeping, day-old chicks. They brave the bitter cold under a heat lamp. This past Winter they arrived just in time for the coldest night of the year, and we lost three that first night. Every year a few hens feel the call and, rather than dropping an egg and being on their way, decide to sit on those eggs and turn them into chicks. Always before we have taken a few pecks to the hand and gathered the eggs out from underneath them.
This year, however, we let one go the distance. Although most of the eggs she sat on were apparently unfertilized, two of them were most certainly fertilized, and are now about two weeks old and as attached to their mama as Clark is to his. It has been a wonder to watch their lives unfold in the natural order. Mom keeps them warm and scratches through the ground until she finds the perfect food for them. She flies off the handle if the chicks appear endangered and goes berserk if she is momentarily separated.
This may do nothing to replace the chickens we lost earlier this Summer. The chicks may both be roosters and never lay an egg. But they have taught us a lot already, and, who knows, maybe they will fertilize the next batch.
Crop Update
I am determined to refrain from reciting my numerous failures in this newsletter. An updated casualty report will appear next time.
Potluck Reminder
We’re a couple of weeks away from the Autumn Potluck (Saturday, September 24, 3 pm til ??). We hope you’ll mark your calendars and plan on joining us to celebrate the gifts of this season. See you soon!

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