The Farm (Shares) Report, 9/1/05

September 1, 2005 psipsina

There were no farm shares last night.  When we got home there was a message from Steve Parker.  The heavy rains the night before flooded his farm, and he can’t harvest anything because it’s all under water.

“Getting to know your farmer,” is one of my reasons for loving CSAs.  This seems like the right week to discuss it.

Steve is, well, a farmer.  There are no frills about him.  He parks his beatup delivery truck at the appointed place every Thursday night.  In the back are baskets and old cardboard crates full of the day’s harvest.  Steve is still in his work clothes, so he has at least as much dirt on him as the beets do.  He unceremoniously stuffs veggies into bags (provided by himself or his customers), and lists them off as he goes.  Carrots.  Zucchini.  Eggplant.  Green Peppers.  Arugula.  If there is anything he is measuring by weight, he will instruct you to help yourself with his ancient scale.  Once in a while he’ll give you a little tip on preparation (Cook the Kentucky Wonder beans a little longer than regular beans) or comment on quality (these snow peas are better than last week’s).  But it’s all utterly blunt and straightforward.

This is a far cry from Whole Foods, where the veggies look more like art installations than products of the earth.

Once, when we got turnips, I said, “Oh, I love turnips – it’s like getting an extra bonus veggie.”  “Oh,” he said, “you like the greens?  Let me find a bunch with really good greens.”

I’ve grown kind of fond of Steve and I am a bit worried about him now.  We paid him for the season, and hey, if there’s no harvest this week, that was part of the risk.  (To be honest, for the first time, we’ve still got a lot of last week’s veggies left.  And we are going away for the weekend.  We won’t hurt too much by missing a week.)  Whether he gives us veggies or not, he makes the same money from us.  But I know he sells to commercial clients (restaurants and possibly stores), and he also sells at farmer’s markets.  And if there isn’t anything to harvest, there isn’t anything to sell.

His message assured us there would be a harvest next week, but nothing is ever certain.  Meanwhile, I am sure that he’s losing more than a day of harvest this week.

And I know he was concerned with the price of diesel back in June, and it’s only gotten worse.  Unlike Two Thousand Dollar Mortgage Boy, this is a real, serious problem for Steve.  He needs the diesel to run the machines that make his farm happen.  And I get the feeling that, like many small farmers, Steve lives on a slim margin.  Increased expenses coupled with decreased income — well, I don’t like to think about it.

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