the eggplant strikes back: the vegesaga continues

This is week 8 of my CSA adventure.

    2 pounds of beets
    1 pound of carrots (donated from another farm, as the carrot crop failed at the farm I go to)
    1 pound of cucumbers
    a bunch of onions
    a pint of pick-your-own peas (though I just picked a half pint, as it was raining, and the pickin’s were looking slim)
    1 small japanese eggplant (I traded in my bunch of onions for a second eggplant.)
    1 small summer squash or pepper (I chose an eight ball zucchini)
    1 bunch or chard or kale
    1 sprig of thyme or marjoram
    1 bunch of basil
    1 ping pong ball-sized tomato

I’m feeling a bit down on this veggie business just now. I sent out an email to a bunch of local friends inviting them to come in small groups, and giving a choice of a dozen or so dates. It turns out that many of them want to come and/or are only available on August 2nd, and no one is available this week. It will be fun to have the bunch of folks, though I hadn’t intended to throw a party 2 days before our big trip. However, I actually won’t have enough vegetables to feed them all. I can save the beets and carrots from this week, but most of the vegetables don’t really last from one week to the next. And the point was to feed people farm-fresh vegetables, not ones that were a week or more old.

So I had a thought. Since I’ll be going away for 2 weeks, I thought perhaps I could see if I could pick up 2 shares worth next week. I know that lots of people go away during the summer, and there always seem to be a lot of vegetables at the end of the night when I arrive at the tail end of the pick-up. So, I asked the farmer. I didn’t know what she’d say, and knew that “no” was definitely a possible answer. I was prepared for the “no” answer.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how irritated I would be by that answer.

Her first answer was, “no, it’s not possible, because of the way the vegetables grow.” When I mentioned that other people might also be going away at various times over the summer and might want to switch a week, she said, “Oh, I see. But it would be too hard for me to keep track.” What I find irritating is that I could think of several ways off the top of my head that it would be feasible for people to arrange these things without it taking up much of her time. She writes in her emailed newsletters that she wants to encourage a sense of community, but all communication between members of this “community” is filtered through her. If there were even some sort of bulletin board, or virtual bulletin board, I could post a request that someone swap a week’s pick-up with me, and then some other member and I could communicate directly. But the answer was “no, I can’t keep track.” (Well, when I explained about the horde of people coming for dinner next week, she did say I could email her and that she’d consider if she learned of someone planning to forfeit their share for the week. But it doesn’t seem too likely this will work out, and I will feel like I’ve put her out.)

And then I’ve realized that part of my irritation was not just about her answer. It’s her farm, her business, so her decision. She needs to decide what works for her. But the trouble is, there have been a number of things that haven’t worked for me as well as I’d hoped.

One main issue is that I hadn’t realized how little of the share would actually be food that Phoebe will eat. (We’ve tried, but she’s become pickier.) There have been greens and onions and kohlrabi, radishes and herbs, garlic and bok choi. And then there was all the lettuce. (Do all the other members really not find 5 heads of lettuce a week to be excessive?) Phoebe won’t eat lettuce, and I can’t even freeze it for later. Here I’ve been collecting more vegetables each week than I’ve ever used before, and then we’ve had to buy additional vegetables for Phoebe. It seems so wrong to be buying frozen broccoli and peas when I have a fridge full of farm-fresh vegetables.

And I’m irritated that I’m trying to be all supportive of this CSA business, and spread the word, and encourage people to consider trying it out. And right now I don’t feel so gung ho. It’s been a fair amount of work, both to go get the vegetables (I even had to rearrange my schedule to be able to make it to one of the two weekly pick-up dates) and to prepare them.

I know that there’s a lot of variation in how the farms and CSA shares operate. My advisor at school is also participating in one, and the deal he gets sounds more appealing. He doesn’t go to a farm, but to a pick-up location that is in or near Boston. What he’s gotten in his weekly shares also sounds more appealing. So maybe I just need to find a different CSA next time around.

So, like all relationships, we’ve had a few bumps. I’m sure that we’ll make up again in a few weeks. I have enjoyed the veggies we’ve gotten so far, and we’re eating more healthily than usual, possibly more healthy than ever. But for now, I think I’ll sit and pout and give the CSA the cold shoulder.

4 thoughts on “the eggplant strikes back: the vegesaga continues

  1. This stuff is so hard. You’ve been doing a really good thing sticking it out. I’ve been impressed. We had a weekly organic veggies/fruit box delivered to our door for a while until I got frustrated with our inability to keep up. I felt terrible giving it up…but I also felt terrible allowing all that good food to rot. The truth is, I just don’t think we were in a place where we could do it. I hope that, next year, whether you find another CSA or stick with this one, you’ll be happier.

  2. Argh. I’m sorry. You tried to do the right thing, and now you’re feeling worse for it. Always unsettling when that happens. It’s not supposed to work out that way!

    And it’s probably more unsettling when one of the “good guys” is unreasonable. I mean, we would expect that from an employee from one of those huge impersonal box stores with goods shipped from China. But this is a local farmer! One you’re going out of your way to support! So of course it’s upsetting. I have a really hard time when things like this happen to me. I tend to want to break things down into black and white, and tend to forget that most things are shades of grey.

    But you know what, you are doing some good. You’ve certainly gotten me thinking more about buying local, not using plastic bags, and trying to think greener in general. I bet you’ve had that effect on others.

    I’d love to come out this week, even for just a few hours, if you still have time, veggies, etc. I just finished HP7 exactly 41 minutes ago, and desperately need to do something that is not Potter related! I can take the train. I love the train. Let me know..

  3. Sage-
    Thanks for the encouragement. And the veggie-related solidarity.

    Thanks for your encouragement, too! It is nice to know that I’m helping to spread green thoughts. I guess “this week” was now sort of last week, so a visit won’t/didn’t quite work out. But hopefully we’ll schedule another one soon. And I’ll see you this Thursday, right? (I’m still reading the HP. About 300 pages in, I think. I only read when I go to bed, and my eyes just don’t stay open that long…Longer than they should, considering when Phoebe gets me up.)

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