Posts Tagged ‘working shares’

Community Agriculture

September 9, 2011

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!

Trips and tumbles…and thanks

July 22, 2011

Dear friends,
Over the years, I have written a number of newsletters that I chose not to send; they needed to be written but not read. Last week produced another of those self-pitying pieces. It was a hard week. Briefly: it was some 150 degrees outside; we lost eight chickens to the heat; groundhogs (or some such destructive creatures) have eaten most all of the first, biggest, most glorious heirloom tomatoes and a good number of watermelons too; corn, already pitiful, laid waste by raccoons; Clark was having a terrible time getting to and staying asleep, and thus we were all exhausted. I could go on, but those were the lowlights.
Thankfully, at the same time as the manure was hitting the fan, we had a wonderful visit from two young, prospective farmers. Starting from their home in Birmingham, Alabama, Charles and Stella had ridden their bicycles from one farm to another across the Southeast. We were the eighth and last farm on their tour. They brought with them good company, good music and good work, and helped remind me what was good about this CSA and this life, despite the frequent failures and challenges. They stayed for a week and then were pedaling off on their way home. Thanks to many of you for being hospitable to them and demonstrating what a wonderful community this is. To see more about their interesting travels, visit their website:
While life at times may seem defeating, would it not be incredibly boring if one felt as if he had nothing left to learn, as if he knew every thing? We too easily write things off as simple and known. Only—at some arbitrary, unforeseen moment—the known acquires new dimensions we were not capable of seeing before. An epiphany reveals that the truth is much more complex, even beyond comprehension. Through repeated and new failures, we learn and grow and embrace our humble station.
For instance, because I have grown many plantings of squash in the past, I might come to think that I know how to grow squash. But just as soon as I say, “I know This,” This does something unprecedented. I find myself bewildered beholding squash plants that look as if I had been trying to kill them. I don’t know what is wrong. I grasp at answers as if I could reach and handle wisps of clouds high in the sky. Eventually, hopefully, a lesson is learned. And the greatest lesson that keeps being taught over and over again is that there is always more to learn.
So, as usual, we have problems aplenty on the farm. Some things will certainly be lean, if they come through at all. It seems the wildly wet Spring has had far-reaching implications. But one certain strength of this kind of farming is the wealth of diversity. While some things suffer, some inevitably do surprisingly well.
In the next couple weeks, we will finish the year’s planting. And, Mother Nature willing and the rains don’t stop, before long we will be back to chilly nights and cool weather crops. Until then, we appreciate you thinking of us during these hot and dangerous days.
A Film Worth Watching
One of our working share members, Ben Evans, is also a talented film maker. He, his wife, and a friend have produced “YERT: Your Environmental Road Trip” about their cross-country trip documenting the hope and peril of our planet. The Louisville Premiere is on July 28 at the Louisville Science Center. Tickets are selling out, but, as of this writing, some remain for the 9:15 PM showing. Watch the trailer and learn more about their adventure at
Special Thanks
The rafters of our barn are filled with a marvelous garlic crop. Over the course of eight days, a field of some 10,000 plants migrated to the barn, bulb by bulb. Many helping hands made the work go quickly, but one particular set of hands was extraordinary. John Bruggman put in four full days of pulling, hauling and handling. We are blessed beyond words with his tireless work, positive attitude and caring friendship. If you pick up on Wednesday, he is the one there that you see most every week. Be sure to give him a big thanks for all that he means to this farm and how instrumental he is in supplying your garlic fix.
Carden, Courtney and Clark