How Our CSA Helped Us Eat Our Veggies Again
When Adam and I had our son in Portland, Oregon, we knew we would bring him back east to family. Two years later, in the summer of 2014, we did just that, pedaling the first 630 miles by bike tour, toddler in tow. Alongside jobs, friends, and the house where Yves was born, we bid farewell to temperate soil and year-round local produce. On the other side of the country, we found a new community. And shrink-wrapped vegetables.
We had seen packaged veggies before at Trader Joe’s, but here they were in our local NH grocery store—peppers, avocado, broccoli, etc.—plastic-strapped to shiny beige trays. The waxy bases were compostable, but the irony was too much—organic produce delivered by fossil fuel and wrapped in petroleum. Is this how we would vote with our dollars?
It happened slowly, but our weekly vegetable haul dwindled to a plastic container of organic baby spinach and a wilting bunch of any available, unpackaged organic greens. We stretched these through weekly smoothies, stir fries, and curries, but when cans of organic corn and green beans became the only vegetables in some of our meals, it was time for a change.
I dug up a link I had saved from SeacoastEatLocal.org—one about Community Supported Agriculture in New Hampshire—and looked into nearby CSA farms to learn about full and half-share prices and what these would provide each week. At the beginning of April 2015, we were just in time to snag a May through October share at Mildred’s Drumlin Farm in Lee.
The first Friday of last May, Adam and I set out on our bikes, trundling Yves behind in the trailer that would carry home our first half-share of the season. We pedaled into MDF’s horse-shoe dirt drive and were greeted by a loping black scallywag of a dog named Tatum. He was almost as warm and inviting as our farmers, Steven Haendler and Deborah Fisher.
All we saw of Deb at first was a hatted and hooded figure mucking about with a rake behind the goat pen. From around his truck, Steve appeared clad in t-shirt and jeans, his salt and pepper beard framing his jovial announcement that Deb was in her “tick suit” to clear brush from some of their 19 acres. He relayed that the land has been in his family since 1973, and for the past 45 years, he has grown much of their food on it—veggies, eggs, meat. In 2009, he and Deb started their commercial CSA with 2 members, and when we joined in 2015, we made their 22nd member share of the season.
Almost an hour into a farm-tour later, a spring rain caught us between the fields and the CSA barn. Steve showed us inside where we would find our weekly share box. Just as he was pointing out duck and chicken eggs from Red Cardinal Farm and goat dairy products from Hickory Nut Farm for sale in the CSA fridge, Deb joined the drip-dry.
Shed of her tick suit and down to t-shirt and jeans, Deb sheened with hard-won sweat. Her contagious smile illuminated our remaining minutes of light-hearted banter, and we quickly learned Steve’s saying to be true: “At MDF, the produce is fresh, and so are the farmers.” Then the pair waved us goodbye until the next Friday, and those Spring showers descended again.
Adam and I had pedaled through moisture countless times back in Oregon, often with fresh produce in tow, and this time around was much the same. Yves was safe and dry in the trailer, and we were rolling into warm wind and rain. It felt so good, and suddenly, in the surprising and accumulating way that a place becomes familiar, we were a little bit more home.
A few weeks into the season, Yves and I pedaled to pick-up day with a stash of plastic bags that Steve and Deb use for loose items, like baby salad greens. Deb showed us a container in the CSA barn where we could stuff the bags in case other share-holders wanted extra carrying power—re-used, optional plastic!
As we finished packing up our share into the bike trailer, Yves pulled out some nail polishes he was carting around from a yard sale earlier that day. He went up to Deb and asked if he could paint her nails. When Deb obliged, Yves’ grubby toddler hands chose a deep maroon before lacquering just one of Deb’s dirt-lined nails. With that, it was time to pedal home before we literally painted the farm red.
This year we are back for a second season with our local farmers at Mildred’s Drumlin Farm. Thanks to Steve and Deb’s steadfast work and creativity—from seed selection to cultivation—our vegetables feel real again.