January 27, 2005: Would you believe me if I
told you most of the problems our farm delivery service experiences
are the boyfriends' fault?
Julia and I farm 35 acres near Hollister, California. Our
friends Jeanne Byrne and Steven Pederson have a farm they
call High Ground Organic Farm close to the coast outside of
Watsonville, Ca. Together we operate a CSA program we call
Two Small Farms. Although the two farms are only 40 miles
apart, the growing conditions are quite distinct. Our farm
is in the warmer interior region and High Ground is in the
fog belt. When I’m picking eggplant Steven can be harvesting
cauliflower. He and I are able to create a more balanced box
of vegetables for our customers by working together than either
of us could on our own.
Working together as Two Small Farms has helped Jeanne and
Julia, too. Where each of them once had to balance the books
and balance the competing needs of their businesses and their
families they can now share some of the jobs or relieve each
other. Jeanne takes responsibility for the finances of our
CSA and Julia takes the lead on getting the newsletter out.
And when worse comes to worse they each have a shoulder to
cry on about how the farm takes up every minute of time and
there’s never enough time to do it all, and wouldn’t
it be easier if men did more around the house? All I can say
is that at least Steven and I are married men.
During our CSA delivery season Julia, Jeanne, Steven and
myself don’t have time to meet together very often.
Julia and Jeanne talk on the phone or share emails daily,
Steven and I make plans on the fly while we’re unloading
trucks or packing up the CSA boxes each week. So in the winter
when things are slow we meet and hash out solutions to our
problems. Each year brings new challenges and each year we
find ourselves looking for solutions to the seemingly intractable
problems like flowers, fruits, boxes … and boyfriends.
Flowers are the easiest problem to fix.
In addition to a box of produce, our C.S.A. subscribers can
receive a weekly bouquet of flowers if they pay an additional
charge. For the last three years High Ground has grown the
flowers, but this past year Steven had some problems at the
end of the year because when it had been time to plant flowers
for November harvest, his fields were full of vegetables.
We four talked the issue over and decided that this year I
will grow a few late season flowers to help out.
We leave the bouquets in buckets of water at each pick-up
site. The subscribers who paid for flowers select a bouquet
when they come for their boxes. But some subscribers see fit
to send their boyfriends to pick up the veggie shares. Sometimes
someone, seeking to curry favor with their partner and seeing
the beautiful flowers, takes a bouquet they haven’t
paid for. The last flower subscriber to get to the bucket
thinks we’ve forgotten them. When we investigate the
crime, an ignorant, lovesick boyfriend always gets the blame.
I can blame the boyfriend, but I can also understand.
Julia and Jeanne have to deal personally with dissatisfied
CSA members, so in our winter meetings they remind Steven
and I that people always want more fruit. Last year Steven
didn’t have enough strawberries for everyone. We decided
that this year I will help with the fruit problem by growing
melons. But Steven grew more strawberries than some subscribers
thought. How can we forget the woman who was angry because
week after week we forgot to put strawberries in her share
box? It turns out she was sending her boyfriend to pick up
the share box. Each week the boyfriend was eating all the
berries, then shoving the empty baskets under the seat. Eventually
she cleaned out her car and we were exonerated.
And then there are the boxes. We use waxed cardboard boxes
to deliver the harvest shares. We slip a big plastic bag in
the box and then pack all the produce inside it. The subscriber
goes to the pick-up site, removes their bag of goodies, folds
up their carton and leaves it neatly stacked flat for us to
reuse. But some subscribers send their boyfriends to collect
their veggies and in a testosterone fueled frenzy the boyfriend
shreds the carton as they attempt to remove the bag. Or the
boyfriend takes the box home, or they toss the empty carton
on the ground to the dismay of the pick-up site host who is
graciously allowing us to use their home. What to do?
Maybe we ought to get boxes printed for us that have instructions
for the boyfriends that clearly spell out, in English, Spanish,
and Tagalog, how to open a box gently and fold it flat. Each
carton can also have a rant printed on the side like a bottle
of Dr. Bronner’s soap that reminds boyfriends we need
to reuse the boxes in order to reduce costs and waste. I think
this is a good idea. At any rate it’s all we can do.
We can’t really tell people not to send their boyfriends—that
would be perceived as sexist.
Besides, can we really be sure that all our problems have
been caused by boyfriends? Even though I’ve heard a
lot of people blame their boyfriends for the problems that
pop up, as a former boyfriend I have my doubts. Some women
subscribers may be casting aspersions at fictitious boyfriends
to excuse their own lack of responsibility. And some of our
most problematic boyfriends may actually be husbands; it’s
just that their wives don’t want to admit they married