Friday, October 30, 2009

The End of the Summer CSA Program

Well it has finally reached the end of the growing season - all the leaves have dropped, there is a chill in the air and all the fields have been ploughed and garlic for next year has been planted at "Cooper's CSA Farm & Maze".

It was a tough growing season with all the rain and lack of sunlight. It really made me appreciate what is involved with farming and what it must have been like before the advent of industrial farms with acres of greenhouses, and monocultures to ensure there is baby spinach available all year round. Mostly though, it made me proud to be involved with a farm that is bucking what is now considered convention, and farming in a natural and seasonal manner.

If we stop and think about it, we really shouldn't be able to obtain baby spinach all year round. It should be something special and anticipated in the early springtime, along with asparagus and tender salad greens. At this time of year, we should be enjoying the wide variety of squashes, root vegetables and cabbages & Brussels sprouts. Sadly, it seems we have become hooked on eating whatever we want, whenever we want at the expense of our health and the environment. The heat required by the expansive greenhouses to ensure the baby spinach is provided with an optimal growing temperature, not to mention the chemicals that are required to ensure that these baby greens survive packaging, shipping and storing, should far outweigh our need for them...but it doesn't usually. Out of sight, out of mind is something many of us (myself included) are often guilty of. It's not until we have an Ecoli breakout caused through contaminated water in a foreign country that we stop to consider that the baby spinach we are eating on our salad plate is produced in countries where there aren't strict regulations and growing practices, and where our demand is causing many of these to be overlooked all in the name of economy. Sadly our desire for items (not only foodstuffs) have caused the standards in many countries to slip. Faster, in greater quantities and cheaper, are what drive the economy, and we tend to forget the human and environmental factor linked to our desires.

Recently we were sent a survey from my CSA farm asking some questions regarding the past CSA season. Talking with Steve & Lisa Cooper I discovered that people were complaining that they didn't receive lettuces past the first month or so of the program! These same people complained that they were receiving potatoes (of which this year was one of the best harvest years for potatoes that Steve could remember and was really excited about), cabbage, Swiss chard, and Brussels sprouts in the later boxes. I find this astonishing and telling of the lack of education of the general populus regarding natural growing seasons, nutritious food preparation and the produce available at different times of the year, and it made me a little sad. These same people said they enjoyed the fact that they received a wide variety of vegetables in their boxes and that they appreciate that Steve & Lisa use natural and sustainable farming methods, and use no or low spray...yet these people really, when it boils down to it, just want to receive cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and salad greens.

Perhaps instead of focussing on educating adults about nutrition and eating seasonally and locally, more emphasis should be placed on educating the young. We have become to disassociated with the land that adults are unable to pass on this valuable information to children. It's not enough to demonstrate healthy eating, it should go deeper to demonstrate responsible eating.

Get out to your local farm and rediscover what it means to truly eat locally and seasonally. Adjust your eating habits to include produce that you've never heard of before - oftentimes it is more nutritionally sound than your regular fare, and will awaken your tastebuds! If we are able to spend time online researching the latest ipod accessories, or which car we are going to buy, then we surely have time to search for methods of preparing Jerusalem artichokes, tomatillos or Swiss chard, right??

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