News From the Farm | December 3, 2018

This is your last box of 2018!

Full Belly’s CSA project was started in 1992 and since then has been one of the mechanisms for connecting us with a community beyond the farm.  The fruits, flowers and vegetables in the CSA boxes deliver healthy and fresh nutrition to families within a hundred mile radius.  But sometimes I think of the boxes as something much more than that  — a subtle kind of inoculation perhaps…  At first, a member may think that it is just some healthy organic food that they signed up for.  Before long, if they stick with the relationship, they may find that there is a whole lot more to unpack from the green plastic boxes.

For one thing, the boxes are a vivid reminder of seasonality.  Suddenly tomatoes disappear and carrots start.  How did that happen?  Day length, temperature — they all change gradually but the box contents this year seemed to morph from hot season to cool season in a week!   Someone at the farm was thinking ahead a few months ago, preparing for the cooler weather.  During the hot season, sweet, spicy and juicy are the flavors that match what our bodies need.  In the cool season, immune-boosting greens and broccoli along with roasted roots, stews, and squash soups are exactly what we need. And that’s what the boxes deliver, season upon season.  

Sometimes one vegetable itself can reflect the change, for example you can watch garlic going from a stem of mild green garlic in the spring, then the bulb grows little by little, the cloves start to form, and finally after a few weeks while the garlic dries down in the field, dry bulbs will appear in the boxes, ready for salsa season!   Carrots tell a similar story.  Their flavor reflects the weather on the farm, and perhaps over time, what our locally attuned bodies actually really need.

Another thing about getting the CSA box is that it can provide a powerfully positive disruption to your relationship to cooking and  shopping for weekly meals. Again, this may be more than what some people bargain for when they first sign up, but in many cases, the CSA box can bring out the creative chef in you that you didn’t know you had, or it can teach you that the beets you hated as a kid may not be so bad after all.  Especially at first, it seems like many of our members have a bit of a love/hate relationship with their CSA boxes…mostly love of course!  In the membership survey that we did this year, when we asked if people used the recipes that we provide, there was a comment from a long-time member who said,  “Oh no, I never cook with recipes any more and I know how to use ALL of the vegetables from Full Belly…”

Having a relationship with a local farm may actually provide health benefits beyond nutrient dense food and creative cooking.  Studies of asthma and immune disease have shown that the microbial content of your environment can be a determinant of your health, and not just in the ways that people are used to thinking about — not just in terms of the microbes that cause disease, but also in terms of those that cause health!  The healthy microbes in Full Belly soil, when they are carried on that Full Belly carrot or potato into your home, may actually be diversifying your microbial ecology and increasing your health and resilience in some way.  Who knows? The relationships between humans and microbes constitute one of the frontiers of study in human health and also agricultural sustainability.  So that idea of the CSA boxes as a form of Farm to City inoculation, going beyond just the fruits and veggies, may stretch along a spectrum that includes the microbial world!

I recently processed a renewal from one of our members who gets 48 boxes per year — an annual membership bought up-front, in advance.  This kind of relationship to the farm reflects a huge amount of trust in our continued ability to create satisfying and inspiring fruits and vegetables year round.  In my email to him, feeling the gift of that trust in our future, I thanked him for his membership, noting that it means a lot to us at the Farm.  He wrote back and mentioned that he had been an annual member for more than 20 years!  

All of us at the farm feel a tremendous gratitude for our loyal members.  As our farming year completes its cycle, we always take the opportunity provided by the cool weather, the shorter days and the relatively quiet fields, to look both backwards to the year that passed and forwards to the unknown that will follow.  This is the final week in 2018 that we will be packing CSA boxes or going to farmers markets.  We wish all of our readers a very happy holiday season.  We will see you back here in 2019!

—Judith Redmond

Some friends from Community Alliance with Family Farmers visited to record a podcast and during our rainy walk we visited our cows who were having breakfast in the old almond orchard.