I mentioned in my last post my introduction to Community Shared Agriculture (CSA). I’ve also heard previous mention of the ‘S’ standing for “Supported” which I quite like because this also alludes to the role of the consumer in supporting the very notion itself. I won’t detail here what a CSA is or the tenets behind it. There are tons of blogs and information on this already on the web — but if you’re local to me or in Ontario, here’s a great place to start: http://csafarms.ca/ or if you’re looking for something more general and about its origins, yes Wikipedia isn’t a bad place to start too. Indeed, I should probably say, my goal in general is not to report what you can find or read elsewhere. Herein these pages you’ll find out how my passions relate to my experiences … and vice versa.
My girlfriend and I discovered Juniper Farms this past summer by some quirk of fate and some quirk of direction. Fate is, well, a series of choices which when we choose them, we don’t quite know how they will turn out. In this case, this is how a decision to rent a cottage in Wakefield for a week turns out (pictures will follow in Shoots later on). The direction comes at the aid of a friend who in the turn of a fateful conversation about where to find locally raised chickens (whilst on vacation), directs us: Juniper Farms (up some road at some intersection on the way back from a shortened bit of mountain-biking in the Gatineau hills cut short before its time when a random bear cub crosses our path … but I digress).
I’ve thought about joining CSA’s for a goodly number of years — longer than even the notion of the locavore diet has been mainstream. What’s taken me this long is a combination of inertia and a concern over some of the CSA share programs I’ve heard mentioned by others — I heard that someone (i.e. that someone not being me) picks veggies for them and delivers them to their home. While I love the idea of local food and love the idea of being grown in a community supported and agriculturally sustainable way (read: organic), what really turned me off was not being able to pick up and feel and see and smell the thing I would be bringing into my house. I promulgate the notion that you can tell a lot about how something is going to taste by how it smells when you pick it up — and if an apple or tomato doesn’t have ‘smell’ in the grocery store, it ain’t gonna taste like much when you put into your special recipe. And there’s a LOT to be said for eating in season which I think is equally important to eating local. Indeed, if you aren’t eating in season, you have no hope of eating locally to begin with ….
So I finally got over the inertia and put aside my fear when I discovered Juniper’s and then heard about their program. Don’t get me wrong, they did nothing to dispel my fear about not getting to touch my vegg, but my introduction to the people and the farm produced an amazing sense of trust and bond from the get go, and this is what changed me. When we pulled up, there was a young family, husband and wife and children, playing near a small garden. The parents didn’t stop their connection and the children didn’t stop their play when our car pulled up — but casual smiles were exchanged like we had known each other forever and saw each other every day. Nothing more had to be said because our arrival was — how should I say? — “normal,” everyday, like seeing person you saw 15 minutes ago … so one doesn’t need to bother to say anything more. And we were there quite announced, quite unsure where we were (except we thought we were in the right place) and quite unsure what to do. I would later learn that the woman was Juniper and the man was Alex — I learned this from Sandy, Alex’s father, who greeted us before ‘uncertainty’ had a chance to become paralysis. He spent 15 minutes talking to us — and us alone — about the farm, its values, its operations … he took us through the ‘shed’ where you could buy everything from what had been pulled out of the ground to what they had sourced from other local producers which they deemed to be of great taste and value (we brought home some maple syrup and sauerkraut, but they had scads more yummy stuff) and he showed as around the farm, pointing out its verges and telling us where they did their various work, the house Alex and Juniper lived in and the joined house where he and his wife lived nearby. He was clearly a father who was very proud of his son who himself was clearly doting on his family even while ‘business’ was going on all around him. Hearing about their values and seeing them in that instant actually living their values … well, I was connected and my inertia disappeared. I knew then that I would sign up for their fall share program and join something special.