This time of year can be pretty stressful, I think we can all agree. The weather causes delays and closings, so we lack the comfort of some sort of routine. Getting outside for extended periods of time can be pretty challenging, and that cold you had last month has cycled through the (house, office, school - take your pick), and now you're sneezing again. All of these factors, layered upon the rest of life's demands, can make even Mother Teresa a little short-tempered.
An additional stressor for me, personally, is the produce section at the store these days. The tomatoes have no flavor, the cucumbers are all wrinkly by the time you get them home, and fresh herbs - forget it. No such thing. I looked in my freezer yesterday, and all that's left from last summer's bounty is 2 cups of shredded zucchini. I'm going to save it for bread for Easter morning. All my peppers and kale are gone, the pesto has long been devoured, and my little herb/oil samplers have made so many dishes delightful. This is the time of year when I become wistful for "my" farms, as I stand in front of the Burpee seed display, daydreaming.
I have been a part of at least one CSA per summer for about 10 years, now. I say "at least one", because there have been many summers where I enlisted at multiple locations. CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs have come a long way in that time. What began as a simple weekly pickup of your share of produce in their barn, has now blossomed into a wonderful opportunity to increase our awareness of what we're eating. Farms now host free cooking demonstrations, tours, and social events. Towns are now declaring their own "Farm Open House Days", Farmer's Markets are becoming mainstream, and the library has many like-minded forums in their calendar. All of which I feel is so wonderful, and important to our local economy, as well as our health. It makes me want to shout out from the rooftops,
"JOIN YOUR LOCAL CSA!"
"GET TO KNOW WHO GROWS YOUR FOOD!"
The first couple of years of my CSA experience, I lost a great deal of food because I simply wasn't prepared. I would come home every week, bags full of beautiful produce, dreaming of exotic dishes I would prepare for myself. I made it into such a huge deal that I quickly became overwhelmed and essentially chickened out. Someone once joked to me they'd been "kale-ed to death", and they weren't sure the CSA was a good fit for them. I remember finally having a conversation with myself when it came time to sign up again. Instead of trying to eat everything I received each week (clearly unrealistic), I restructured my goals, and decided I would eat what I could and preserve the rest. Canning seemed way over my head, so I went with freezing, and I've been a happy girl ever since! Make a huge batch of pesto, roast up some garlic, or throw some herbs in oil, and just freeze it! Carrots and zucchini can be grated and frozen, and peppers can go right in as they are! Claire was born in July, and I took great pride in preparing all of her first foods from our own, local organic farms. Everything went into the freezer, and she enjoyed it all that winter. Having such a strong connection with our food source has created such a warm feeling of nourishment with the food we eat, and it's exactly that nourishment I am craving on this cold, rainy February day.
So what will I do about it? I'm going to go online to www.georgehallfarm.com, I'm going to print out the contract, and I'm going to mail it in with a check so George and the gang can start growing! In the meantime, I'm going to pick up some fragrant Hyacinth bulbs, set them next to my kitchen sink, and take a whiff every time I have to wash dishes! And as soon as the weather becomes a little more agreeable, Claire and I will resume our Sunday morning farm visits to feed the chickens who give us our eggs. We'll sneak a peek in the greenhouses, nibble on some spinach sprouts, and maybe if we're lucky, get a spoonful of some small-batch, home-made maple syrup!
I am so grateful and feel so blessed to have made the acquaintance of so many motivated and talented growers. I hope to share this connection, this feeling of nourishment, with Claire, and anyone else who's curious. There are so many opportunities for supporting your local farmers - check out www.ctnofa.org for more information.
And as for all the kale - I can't imagine life without it!