Monday, July 27, 2009

Kids' Day at the CSA

This last Saturday, a bunch of families descended upon a small farm near Osceola, MN to get dirt under their nails, bugs in their hair and food on their plates.

This is the third summer that we've had a share in Foxtail Farms CSA, but it's the first time we made it out there for the kids' day. I guess it took having photos of Anna picking vegetables for me to finally write something substantial about our CSA.

The first thing we saw when we pulled up were goats and kids feeding the goats. Anna said, "Look, they have doggies!" We corrected her before getting out of the car. (City dweller shame is an embarrassing burden to bear.)

Anna watched the kids feed the goats.

We didn't encourage her to feed them, but we also didn't discourage her. She decided on her own to stand back and just watch.

I honestly do not know why there are goats on this farm. For milk? As pets? There were also chickens, some cows and a bull. They all looked healthy and in good spirits. I decided to ignore the fact of their property status and that they might be used for food. Because it was kids day, and this farm is awesome and we were there to have fun, dammit.

For those of you unaware of the CSA movement, here's a blurb from the Foxtail website:
"CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Each spring, CSA members purchase a "share" of the farm's produce. Fresh vegetables are delivered weekly throughout the growing season, usually from mid-June through October. The farmer benefits by having an established market, while the members enjoy a wide variety of the freshest produce available all summer. In addition, by joining a CSA, members are supporting small scale, local, sustainable farming."

And we get wagon rides!

Here's Jen and Anna on the wagon. Where was Liam, you ask? I was wearing him. It made taking photos especially difficult, given his affinity for chewing on straps of any sort. Hell, for chewing on anything. He probably would have chowed down on the lens had I given him the chance.

Farmer Paul (if I remember correctly) drove us out to the fields. First stop: Potato Town.

The farmer stomped a pitch fork into the hard soil and loosened a clump of potatoes just enough for the kids to pull it out the rest of the way. Anna just sort of stood there and watched the older kids. It looked dirty to her. She's not a total clean freak, but she likes to be generally dirt-free. I instantly knew what was running through her head (because it was running through mine as well ... like father, like daughter, right?) so I told her to just dig right in. "It's OK," I said, "You'll get dirty. You're supposed to get dirty. The dirtier the better."

So she got dirty and picked a bunch of potatoes. It was work. She had to look under things and bend over and pull hard.

Next stop: Carrot Town. There was no hesitation this time. Anna dug right in. A lot of tops of carrots were snapped off, since the pitch fork couldn't be in all places at once. I wonder if we'll get the bottom halves in a future delivery...

Next stop: Bean Town.

On the way to Bean Town, I heard a couple tweens wondering what beans grew on. A bush? A tree? Yes, they eventually decided, beans grow on a tree. And this is what was great about the day. Kids learning where their food comes from. What it looks like before it's on their plate.

I almost cried while watching Anna's hands move through the beans. I saw grace and a fluidity of movement, I saw determination and a keen eye. I saw my daughter pick those beans with her own two hands.

I saw her face beam with well-deserved pride.

In the most recent newsletter that comes with the CSA box we get each Thursday, the writer (who is, I believe, one of the two owners of the farm) said, " is only through intense interactions with the physical world that food is generated for people to eat."

I wouldn't call what we did intense. It was an infinitesimal percentage of the work that goes on every day at that farm. But I could tell that Anna took pride in it and she considered it to be a certain level of work.

Later that day when I started to prepare supper, Anna was in the kitchen asking to help. That happens rarely, if ever. But here she was, asking to skin the potatoes; to cut the potaotes. And I let her. With my really sharp knife. How could I say no? She picked these potatoes. It only seemed natural that she wanted to also prepare them. (Note: I held the knife with her and was as safe as possible. Well, I let her try it on her own for one of the smaller potatoes.)

And then she ate the potatoes. And she ate the carrots raw. And she ate raw green beans, too.

[Side note: When we were in North Dakota a couple weeks ago we got to eat my mom's pickles. We came back to Saint Paul and I picked up some pickles at the store. I put a couple on Anna's plate and she looked at them and asked in a dissapointed tone, "are these from the store?"]

Foxtail has interns. They live at the farm and work for room and board. This guy is one of them, I'm pretty sure. He walked alongside the wagon, making sure kids weren't getting run over and whatnot. In the background is where our basil and cucumbers (among other things) grow. I kept referring to it as a grow house, which tells you that I've spent more time in my life watching "Weeds" than I have picking weeds.

On the wagon ride, a kid commented to her parents that the green houses reminded her of something out of a Mario game. I jokingly shushed her and the parents and I shared a knowing glance. Like I said ... shame of the City Dwellers.

After the wagon ride, we sat on the big lawn and ate potluck food, most of which was made from the veggies share-holders got from the very farm they were touring. Fresh food and smiles abounded.

Then I fell in love with a big old barn. Here are my adoring photos of it.

And to top it all off, Anna got to swing on the largest and highest swing she will probably ever swing on. She's still a little leery of "big kid" swings, so she didn't want to go super high. Next year...

And finally, our booty for the day. This is the kind of stuff we're going to get every week for the next month or so, but these tasted better. The vegetables of our labor.

This is "morganically grown" produce here. From the Foxtail website:

"'Certified Organic' is a useful term for food grown by farms thousands of miles away, but we are developing a relationship where the farmer and consumer know and depend on each other. Morganic is local, grown to organic standards, hours old fresh, and sold directly to the consumer. You can talk to the farmer and tour the farm. That is the only way to be sure of your food."

To find a CSA in your area, go here. I strongly suggest it. It's a hunk of money up front, but it pays off. You'll eat fresher, healthier and localer. Yep. Localer.


DJ said...

The whole CSA movement you have in the USA is just awesome. The UK being a teeny island with a predisposition to import a lot of food, we have the odd organic veg box scheme but apart from that you really have to grow your own or befriend your local farmer. Kids Day looks like GREAT fun!!!

herbstsonne said...

Awwwwwwww, too cute! Looks like fun!

Jeni Treehugger said...

What an awesome day out. I just thought CSA was a farmers market - I didn't realise there was more to it than that. How neat.
Love the look on Anna's wee face and Liam looks suitably impressed too!