2005. One week to go until the first harvest
for our CSA program, and we pause for the Open Farm, a food-and-music
event that serves as the starting line for a 21-week race.
The Open Farm is the moment we stop working exclusively
toward the future and take account of what we’ve got.
We have flowering snap peas. We have lots of lettuce, chard
and greens. We have a small-but-strong patch of broccoli and
cabbage. We have hanging baskets of flowers to hand out the
first week. Most importantly, we have a community of folks
who are supporting two new farmers as we struggle to make
this farm work ecologically and economically. We know this
will be a tough season, but we focus on the positive as we
meet and greet our CSA members and give them a tour of the
The fields don’t lie, and exposing your farm life and
work to the community can be tough to stomach. Our squash
is severely stressed, the pac choi is riddled with holes,
and plenty of weeds encroach on the onions. And that’s
just the beginning of a long farm list that includes the functionality
of the guest bathroom. What impression will these things leave
on our CSA members?
A key piece of advice passed on to me from seasoned CSA growers
is to stay positive no matter what, because so much of the
long-term success of a CSA program hinges on the positive
experience that surrounds the food.
That doesn’t mean covering up tough times with a fake
smile but being open about problems while focusing on constructive
So this year, rather than gloss over the difficulties we’re
having, I bring these issues to the attention of our members
at the Open Farm while remaining positive in tone and outlook.
I point out the mistake I made in over-mulching the garlic,
and I acknowledge that my learning curve is still steep as
a farmer-in-training. I talk about the effect of unusually
cool weather on our summer plantings, hopefully offset by
an extra bounty of cool-weather crops. And the members surprise
me with their acceptance of holes in the greens. In fact,
some of them love the holes. This reminds them of the garden
they had growing up. The food may have flaws, but it also
We’re learning to let the community in on what’s
going on, even if the truth is far from bliss. I think this
process creates a more meaningful experience for all involved
and works to make the overall outcome of the season a successful
one. The truth this year is that we are enduring serious growing
pains as we expand our program, and we need all the help we
can get. We’ve been open about this, and we have gotten
a lot of support from CSA members, family, and friends—on
a daily basis.
Surveying the garden, we should be in good shape for the
first few weeks of the season, and at least that feels good.
We are not so confident about the main summer months, with
most of the warm-weather crops still in the greenhouse and
headed for newer, rougher garden territories. Now that the
Open Farm has passed, we return again to work in the field.
We will build the remainder of this season one bed at a time.