3 things about my CSA share

img_20160930_172812158.jpgI have been on the path to utter hippie-dom since my first semester of seminary. That was when I quite accidentally took a class that asked me to really face the realities of climate change, and the interconnected ways that the patterns of life defined as “prosperous” in the developed world very often actually impoverish everyone.

Those patterns are very, very slow to change, though, and I’ve had to learn to be gentle with myself as I try to adopt better habits. And now it’s been a few years, and I find myself sometimes tempted to feel that my little actions don’t really matter. But a few months ago, I finally got around to reading Barbara Kingsolver’s devastatingly lucid, well-researched, and beautiful book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I expected to enjoy but didn’t expect would be a galvanizing force in my life. Reading the book, though, it was clear to me: it’s time to stop making excuses about food. I don’t mean to say that I am switching to the very most perfectly ethical diet—far, far from it. (Who really knows what that would be, anyway??) But I did want the move to Charleston to be a time to purposefully create new habits and expectations as a move toward being part of a food system that is healthier for everyone. We moved just in time to get in on a fall CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) share: we’ve paid up front for 10-12 weeks’ worth of organic produce from a local farm. We help take on some of the risk inherent in farming by paying ahead of time, and give up the chance to cherry-pick our favorite items; but the price, in the end, should be significantly lower than the cost of buying at the farmers’ market every week.

We picked up our first bag on Thursday, and here are my first impressions.

  1. This is a lot of food.
    One of many reasons I’m enthusiastic about the CSA is that, after a summer of celebrations and traveling, we are on a not-diet diet. We all basically know how to eat healthy, right? Lots of vegetables, whole grains, beans, eggs, and lean meats, easy on the sugar. For me, all of this often falls into place if I can accomplish two things: acquire lots of vegetables, and make time to cook them. Step 1 is now complete and I didn’t even have to go get them.
  2. We’re gonna be eating a lot of greens this week.
    This week’s bag included Red Russian kale, mustard greens, and turnips. With turnip greens. This is completely fine with me; I love greens by themselves—cooked, or comprising a salad that is actually filling—and you can throw them into all kinds of things if you need to use them up (eggs, soups, pizza, stir-fries…). But the sheer volume of greens does drive home the fact that eating seasonally means giving up a lot of the choice we’re used to having at the globally-sourced produce section of the grocery store. It’s not a terrible thing, but it’s a fact.
    We are so used to this state of affairs, where we can wander into the store and grab a few tomatoes, some root vegetables, a head of lettuce, some chicken breasts, and a seasonal decor item. In one sense, we have a great amount of choice in what we eat and when, what we buy and how much. Election-time talk of trade deals and consumer prices has this as its underlying goal: making prices as low as possible gives us even more freedom to do and have what we want. Yet, in another sense, we are losing choices with extreme rapidity. We have been conditioned to think that a tomato is a tomato, a bunch of kale, a bunch of kale—but the small farmers of our country could easily list you 30 kinds of each, out of the hundreds or thousands that exist. Kingsolver’s notes on raising heirloom turkeys were especially eye-opening in this regard.
    When I first decided that sustainability needed to be a priority in my life, I thought that it would be a major sacrifice. The changes I have made so far have, indeed, been a major adjustment—but they have nearly all made my life more beautiful. And I think there are ways we can balance the opportunities afforded by our newfound choices with some restraint, choosing contentment over entitlement.
  3. This food is beautiful.
    It’s not terribly hard to be content with this bounty. I could wish for lettuce and tomatoes right now, but looking at what’s in front of me, that would be the height of ingratitude for the opportunity to become a connoiseur of greens, for the heirloom okra and sunflower sprouts I simply can’t get at the store, for the incredible beauty of each egg. I know that each of these items was planted, cared for, and harvested by four people who are invested in preserving the land in and around my home. What a privilege to be sustained by the labor of their hands and to know that their work enriches, rather than impoverishing, the soil.
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