A Share of the Bounty

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Every week there is a gift.  It always arrives on Tuesday and I open the box with a sense of wonder…

I dig deep into the box. They are half hidden beneath the green bumpy skin of Dinosaur kale, tucked carefully next to the bright orange carrots and Italian parsley, veiled by delicate fennel tops, and just to the side of freshly washed white turnips, I can see their perfect round form. A slight rouge to their skin, sweet— fragrant— blood oranges! I can hardly wait to peel them open, reveal their garnet flesh and enjoy the tangy, sweet juice.

And with their arrival in the box, I know something has changed… is emerging. Spring is breaking through, beginning to bud and the days are getting longer.

A special intimacy comes when the nuances of seasonal changes are recognized; when you begin to know the timing of the flowers, budding of the trees, arrival and departure of birds, emergence of various animals—all of this is a reward for taking time and noticing, becoming more connected and gaining a sense of place.

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One of the most profound ways to connect to where you live and develop that deep sense of place, is simply by connecting to the food grown in your local area. By engaging with local farms and eating in season, you have the opportunity to develop an understanding of the ecosystem in which you live. You will become familiar with what can be grown in your area, the timing of various crops, while also connecting to the local farmers themselves. All of this builds respect—both for the people who work to grow your food and for the environment which provides the food you eat.

There are several significant benefits of buying local. You are supporting local farmers, the local economy and minimizing the reliance on crops shipped from outside the area—or perhaps even from outside the country. This, in turn, reduces fuel consumption and the unknowns of how the food was grown—such as what impacts the farming practices might have had on the ecosystem and community from which it came.

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One of the easiest ways to enjoy local foods is through participation in Community Sustainable Agriculture (CSA). In short, you purchase a membership or share of the crops from a local farm and on a regular schedule receive a delivery of amazing produce or other local goods. This is what I consider my gift per week.

CSA shares are a remarkable way to connect to your local farmers; participation directly supports their hard work and the local economy, while giving you a direct connection to the land. Throughout the year, the food items change, and as time goes on, you may come to love deeply the gifts of the various seasons—from the squashes of fall, to the leeks, kales and artichokes of winter; fruit, berries, basil of spring; and the remarkable bounty of carrots, lettuces, corn, radishes, tomatoes, and so much more that comes during the summer harvest.

Plus, you may discover something new and exciting—many farms feature heirloom varietals or fruits and vegetables not commonly found in traditional grocery stores. There is absolutely something exciting about discovering new foods, trying new recipes and sharing your gorgeous or yummy new discoveries with others.

In addition, some CSA’s carry other high quality items from local craftspeople— olive oils, tea, coffee, jams, jellies, eggs, breads, lotions and soaps. CSA’s are as varied as the places people live and the creative arts they practice!

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They also often provide the opportunity to get to know the people who grow your food or even visit the farm for special events. There is nothing like being able to meet the people who actually do the work of providing such high quality produce and saying, “Thank you for growing my food!”

And just FYI: Farmers love that!

For those of you looking for a hands-on adventure in gardening, there is always the reward of growing some of your own food. Gardening, on any scale, is a rewarding endeavor—it often teaches humility as well as provides great rewards. From vegetables in pots to garden boxes, or large garden areas—the options are limitless. If you have a little space, indoors or out, a sunny window, apartment porch or a yard that you would like to grow food in—there is something for everyone.

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With some planning and selection of plants that do well where you live—you too, can enjoy growing vegetables, fruits or flowers. Not only will you know where the items came from, you will gain a deep understanding of what does well where you live and what it takes to make various plants flourish.

In addition, gardening is a powerful way for children to learn about plants and how they grow. It is the perfect teaching tool for demonstrating the role of water and sunlight in food systems. It also helps children understand where food comes from, and of course—they inherently know how to make gardening a fun adventure—with a sense of wonder and some dirt, it’s easy to see why learning in the garden is a powerful way to connect people to nature and specifically, food.

So, whether you are stuck in the Polar Vortex or are in the Central Valley of California, where spring seems to have sprung… the days are getting longer and that means the spring growing season is about to burst into bloom. With it, there is no better time to be inspired to plan your own garden or connect with local farms and reserve your share of the bounty.

Perhaps you too, will find yourself opening a box each week, lifting the lid as if opening a gift and with excitement discovering blood oranges or other seasonal delights, while also growing a deeper sense of place—right at home.

Resources:

Community Sustainable Agriculture

LocalHarvest.org

USDA Community Sustainable Agriculture

Farms to know and love… take some time and find a farm near you!

Mountain Meadow Farms

Kern Family Farm

Live Earth Farm

Food Cooperatives:

Local Harvest.org

Incredible Gardening Resource:

Petaluma Seed Bank

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