I am ecstatically back to writing a correspondence after a nearly 4-week long hiatus from CSA deliveries while we waited to receive confirmation that our farm was unaffected by the Santa Paula chemical spill on November 18th.
Having received results that indicated our fields were fully safe to harvest from, we are back in the rows and marveling at how much we’ve missed eating, touching, and harvesting the produce in the last month. It was with much jumping and shouts of “hurrah!” that your farm team received the good news that we could conscionably re-start harvests for the CSA program, and for the kids in the Ventura and Conejo Valley Unified School Districts this week. Every beet pulled out of the ground has been a thrill; every bursting tomato plucked from the vine, a joy.
In the meanwhile, I would like to extend a long, loud and wide THANK YOU to all who have walked this journey with us in the past few weeks. Thank you for recognizing the unique currency that keeps this farm pulsing. This lifeblood has only a bit to do with money, and so much to do with community, relationship, and trust. I am humbled in the face of how this farm’s supporters have lived into the true CSA model in days’ past, and floored yet again by its appearance this month.
Community Supported Agriculture is more than a simple business transaction, or some type of debit account for vegetables. Indeed, as I was reminded in this season of waiting and hoping, it is an agreement between those who who grow and those who consume the food to mutually support this farm, this soil that both parties are pulling life from. It is pledge to together form the roof beams of this structure, and to learn how to lean on each other in the times of great weight. By becoming a “shareholder” of this farm, you are stepping into the rich wetness of being a part of- connected to!- your farm.
It’s easy to forget the base philosophy of this model when things are going great and the boxes are overflowing with good stuff; but catastrophes are certainly skillful at stripping all things down to their barest form. Therefore, I was most thankful to read the following letter from long-time farm supporter and shareholder, Josephine, and to find my way back to what this CSA program is really about. Please read and enjoy:
Dear Fellow CSA Members,
As I eat my way through the best vegetables my local supermarket has to offer in the wake of the Santa Paula chemical spill, I think of my CSA vegie box with new awareness. I have been getting the box so long that I take it for granted and even groan inwardly sometimes when a favorite is not in it or I have to figure out how to prepare something that is unfamiliar to me.
One of the happy serendipities in my life was coming upon the Abundant Table Farm Project when it was still in its formation stages. I have really valued having a small part in the larger “we” of the CSA boxes. Though I like the convenience of the website and the various delivery options and the greater variety of vegies in the box that have evolved over the years, some of the intimacy and “realness” has become less apparent with growth and sometimes the CSA just seems like another great local business.
At the beginning there was a thoughtful and vibrant conversation of what a CSA is. It is really not a business in the usual sense of the word. There isn’t a for profit owner offering goods or services for consumers to buy. There is really no me and it or us and them. It is really simply all of us in this together.
In the early years of the CSA sometimes the box was pretty sparse, it was understood that the box had less in it because less had grown that week or some garden insect had taken more than their fair share. The cost of the box has never changed due to the amount or content.
It seems to me that with the boxes empty as they are for the time being, each of us who value being part of the CSA should consider continuing to send in our payments. The expenses of the Abundant Table Farm Project continue regardless of the chemical spill. I am appreciative that we are not being sent boxes of vegies of uncertain safety. Also, I hope to have vegie boxes that I can exclaim with pleasure over or grouse about in the years to come.
In grateful community,
We at The Abundant Table / Join the Farm are all still processing the tangled and messy web of relationships that emerged in the aftermath of the spill, and striving to see where our place in it all is. I hope that we will get to hear from different members of our organization, or even possibly from YOU!, as we continue to meditate on and dialogue about the realities of our place in this very industrial and complex world. And! To end on a more cheerful note, this week’s boxes contained some very special honey from former intern / current Abundant Table fellow Angela Schultz’s beekeeping venture with Dylan Dougherty in Santa Barbara, Be the Bee Apiaries! This is some good honey, folks. It came from the hard work of happy and healthy bees who were busy pollinating the wildflowers of the Ojai/Santa Barbara region. If you like this honey as much as I do and would like to purchase more, please reply back to this email! I hope you will dig into this week’s box with fresh gusto and excitement. Here’s to the wonderful rain that we’ve been having! Until next week, Jeannette Ban Join the Farm! Farm Fellow