Carol Henderson: Bounty in a bag

November 26, 2013 

You know the saying: some people live to eat, others eat to live. I’m definitely in the “eat to live” group. In fact, if there were a pill I could swallow every morning to feel balanced, sane, and sated all day, I’d gladly gobble one. And forego food.

I have a friend who couldn’t be more different. He salivates over what he’s going to prepare for breakfast and lunch – before he goes to bed at night. Shopping and chopping thrill him. I’d rather be reading or sleeping. And, please, spare me the grocery store.

So, participating in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is perfect for me. Each week I get a bag containing a variety of fresh, organic vegetables. I don’t have to choose them and stand around waiting to pay. I’ve paid up front, for the season.

In the bag, I’ll find crisp arugula and other leafy greens, sweet potatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, radishes, garlic, carrots and more. All I have to do is make a salad, cook up some brown rice, quinoa, or pasta and steam or saute a combination of veggies and, voila. Dinner. With leftovers for lunch the next day. I skip breakfast.

“Do you sometimes get food you don’t want?” a friend asked. I gave my standard reply: “I’ve never met a vegetable I didn’t like.”

Over the years, I’ve tried several CSAs. At one, pick up was at Johnny’s in Carrboro. You filled your own box and the farmer weighed your produce, added up your haul. The food was fresh but, for me, there were too many options.

Another year a gardener offered a small CSA to me and another friend. We got so much Swiss chard that fall that my friend said her husband never wanted to see the stuff again. We don’t have that problem in our house. My husband and I could happily eat the same thing every night.

Julia Sendor, the manager of our CSA, includes recipes – I’ve tried a few (never would have if they weren’t right there, tucked into the bag) – and anecdotes from her week: “One afternoon,” she wrote, “we forgot to check that the truck tailgate was closed, and drove back to Woodcrest from our other farm plot to find that our crates of okra and vivid peppers had completely disappeared. After driving up and down the road for over an hour, I still don’t know where those crates went!

“But we’ve kept on harvesting and celebrating what we don’t lose. We hope you also keep enjoying it.”

We are enjoying the magnificent harvest. And it’s affordable, about $15 a week. We never buy other veggies and who needs supplements when you’re getting super fresh, organic foods? I figure that one helping from Woodcrest Farm is worth, in vitamins and minerals, about eight servings from a commercial super market vegetable.

Julia, 28, a Chapel Hill native and graduate of Williams College, is not only passionate about growing produce and making the CSA work for everyone involved, she is also deeply concerned about food access issues – how to get better quality food to more people. She has worked on farms full time for two years and has volunteered for eight. She knows her stuff. And she cares about all aspects of farming, including the health and welfare of the migrant workers in North Carolina.

Her work is labor intensive, sometimes nerve-wracking – trying to calculate quantities, crop readiness, pricing, variety, membership, and delivery.

“I’ve had plenty of sleepless nights,” Julia said. “But managing this CSA has been the best year of my life.”

And that bag of fresh food has made this fall the tastiest eating season of my life. I might even try another recipe. And with the holidays upon us, I think I’ll buy an extra share of Julia’s spring CSA for somebody who wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate.

For more information on local CSAs, visit www.ecovian.com/s/chapel-hill-nc/csa.

Carol Henderson is a writer and writing teacher. Her most recent book is “Farther Along: The Writing Journey of Thirteen Bereaved Mothers.” Contact her at cd.henderson@gmail.com

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