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
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 such oafs.