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 solutions.
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 has flavor.
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.