Having grown up near grandparents and cousins (&c.) who farmed, I sometimes wonder what it would be like to return to my ancestors’ farming ways. My first thought every spring is that the daffodils have bloomed and need picking, even though I haven’t lived near those daffodils for years. And around this time of year, my mind turns to dewberries, blackberries, cherries, figs…all long-lost friends, and it would sure be nice to reconnect with them.
Full disclosure, though, that part of what drives my reveries me here is not just an idle Golden-Age-seeking “return to roots” mentality but looking forward, as well, with an uneasiness about how dizzyingly far removed we’ve climbed from our foundations when it comes to food: we speak of “farm to fork,” but at the end of the day we pat ourselves on the back for making that distance fewer than 100 miles.
Enter the CSA! We were super-stoked to pick up the first installment of nature’s bounty at the shiny, hip town center that houses our local farmer’s market. Our anticipation was partially related to delay on the CSA farm’s part, because various issues regarding weather–you know, the seasons–had prevented the first crop from coming in by two weeks. (Just like with everything else, the farm reminded us, “girls rule” is the rule when it comes to Mother Nature.) And our anticipation was certainly rewarded: dark orange carrots, beautiful lettuces, tiny green onions (I just cooked & ate them all), and grocery-store-fine broccoli.
But what struck me most was the way that the goodness was conveyed… .
We received our CSA share in a
plastic bag reusable, biodegradable, compostable bioliner (meant for us to reuse, biodegrade, or compost) contained in a box (to be returned) off of the back of a truck. Everything was washed and sorted and stackable. It was almost as if–or rather, it OBVIOUSLY WAS the case that–the farm we had chosen to sponsor wanted to make everything look as fair, as well-regulated, and as convenient as possible.
This sort of presentation is gratifying to a city dweller with too much clutter and not enough space. (In our heart of hearts we really all want to live like Kanye.) And indeed on that very same day I ran across Urban Farm Magazine, which taught readers how to grow chili peppers at home. What seems missing, so far, however–and, I suspect, will be even if we visit the source of our food–is the sense of mystery acknowledged and so quickly swept aside by our CSA’s quip about besting Mother Nature.
Children (like we were) in rural areas experience this mystery as wonder or at least a sense of closeness, when they pause to think of it at all; adults who have to put food on the table for their families no doubt experience it, on occasion, as fear. But there’s no mystery at all, I fear, in a cardboard box. You can’t unload the sublime from the back of a truck.