Luskin: Shaking the farmer’s hand

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(HOST) This year, Commentator Deborah Luskin thinks she’s found a way to have her garden – and her leisure too. She’s joining a CSA.

(LUSKIN) Last year, the kids taught us all about local food and promised to help us grow our own. We said ‘No’ to the young steer they suggested, but we did raise chickens for meat, and together, we planted a moderate-sized garden. Just as the beans came on, the kids all found something better to do. By the time the chickens were ready to slaughter, I was on my own. But this year, we’ve got the kids outsmarted: we’ve joined a CSA.
As you may already know, Community Supported Agriculture is a way to purchase locally grown produce at reasonable prices by paying the farmer in advance. Essentially, we consumers stake the seed money, so the farmer doesn’t have to borrow so much from the bank – and the consumer doesn’t have to shop exclusively at the grocery store.
There’s some risk involved. If the farmer suffers crop failure, I’m out of luck. But it’s a risk I’m willing to take. The farmers I’m backing have been working their land for generations and know what they’re about. If the green beans wilt, something else will thrive.
And there are other benefits. In return for my money, I’ll receive about twenty pounds of organically grown vegetables every week, at a cost of about a dollar a pound. I’ll pick my food up on Fridays, and I won’t have to dodge the wire carts in a parking lot.
I’ll also have local food without actually having to grow it myself.
It’s lovely to think about going self-sufficient and engaging the whole family in growing our own food. But I’ve gotten wise to my kids’ habit of telling me how to live a better life, and then taking off on their own. Nor can I devote my entire summer to growing and preserving food. Doing so cuts the grocery bill, but it doesn’t put a dent in tuition. Next year, all three kids will be in college. And growing vegetables wouldn’t do much to pay those bills – even if we opened up a farm stand!
I will raise chickens again, but I’ve nixed all talk about turning our pasture over to cattle or sheep. I’ve found local farmers willing to sell me lamb and beef. Soon, our local cow will be milking, and our CSA will begin.
Sure, we’re going to plant a small garden; we don’t seem to be able to resist. But we’ll plant selectively. I aim to grow all the onions we’ll need for the year, and concentrate on harvesting the sizable fruit crop we glean from the small orchard we’ve been developing over the years.
It’s a relief, really, to discover that I can find locally grown food without having to raise it myself. I’m lucky to live in a community with a vibrant network of farmers selling directly to consumers. I may not grow all my food by my own hands, but I can shake the hands of the farmers who do.

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