The end of July is a time of transition for New England farms. Cooler weather crops like bok choi can’t handle the summer heat, so we won’t be seeing them again until the fall, but heat-loving favourites like tomatoes and eggplant are still just starting to trickle in. Those of you who are returning shareholders may remember that last year we took a week’s break from the CSA around this time to let the fields catch up. We’re not at that point yet, but you may notice a smaller share this week.
As a farmer and a proud history geek, agricultural history is a passion of mine; I have a special interest in how New Englanders fed themselves before refrigeration and intercontinental supply chain management. When we find ourselves, with all our technology, challenged by the cycle of the seasons or a wind storm or an explosion of crop-devouring insects, I try to remember how much harder it must have been 100 or 1000 years ago. For most of us, a smaller share means a chance to use up the backlog of veggies in our fridge from previous weeks or perhaps a rare trip to the produce section of the local grocery store. For our ancestors, it might have meant a lean week or two – but perhaps it would also have made the tomatoes taste even sweeter when they finally ripened in great numbers.
When we harvested all our garlic this week and hung it to dry in our greenhouse, I thought about how much harder it would have been without a tractor to drive along the beds in front of us, undercutting the soil to loosen the heads before we pulled them. I thought about the fact that our humble greenhouse has an electric fan to ensure proper air circulation, and is built from lightweight alloys and plastic. It would have been a miracle of technology to someone living in my great-grandmother’s time. But I also thought about the fact that big harvests like garlic or winter squash would have once been a great social occasion, where entire communities came together to work for common good and celebrate a brief flash of abundance with music and dancing and games.
My hope is that Land’s Sake gives people a chance to sample that experience of a community unified in its closeness to food production without all of the risks and inconveniences of subsistence farming. We had some new volunteers on the farm this week, and their feedback was unanimous: it’s incredibly satisfying and educational to be a part of growing food. We farmers agree! If you find yourself wanting to sample a slice of the past (without having to trade in your air conditioner or goretex rain gear!) remember that you and your family are welcome to join us on the farm for one of our volunteer days, and you’re always welcome to ask questions and learn more about what it takes to grow vegetables in New England.