In addition to the love of growing vegetables, a big part of my call to work in the soil relates to having a sense of purpose, a sense of doing something that is appreciated by others, and increasingly a sense of community. Originally I didn’t feel that my gardening was about community. But over the years CSA members have made many comments about how the veggies (and the farmer) are a link to their community and to each other. As I pay more attention to signs of this in my gardening work, that sense of community is growing within me as well. God calls us to live in community with each other, using our skills and talents for the benefit of others (often without expecting anything in return). At its roots, farming is about sharing. It is about being part of that community. It is about looking beyond the hard work, the daily physical toil, with a motivation that is not entirely materialistic. It is about working in a spirit of grace and offering the results of that work with graciousness.
This newsletter (below) was originally published in early May 2021 as CSA members were receiving their second box of veggies for the season.
Running the CSA is like nothing I’ve ever done before. It’s partly like working in a fast-paced Silicon Valley startup where everyone is expected to do everything and anything at any time to get the product out, and partly like being a nervous, bright-eyed new parent obligated to nurture and support a lovely helpless little being, no matter what it takes. The work of the CSA can be physically strenuous at times but it’s not particularly hard. The planning, planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting do take some skill, but the characteristics of most vegetables are diversely documented and myriad resources exist to help out. The real challenge of the CSA is the constancy of doing all of these things in real-time, keeping the pipeline of produce full, balancing life, and dealing with many things outside of my control.
Once we start the season, I am on the hook to provide 58 families with a variety of fresh, nutritious, and local vegetables. I need enough to harvest from the garden every Monday and Thursday (and every other Tuesday) to fill ten boxes on each of those days. Week after week, for six months straight. At this point in the season, it is a sprint against time with an ongoing prioritization of what needs to be done to both keep everything alive and to give the plants, places, and people the best long-term chance for success. Daily chores (moving plants in and out, opening and closing cat tunnels, and covering and uncovering transplants) need to be balanced with the planting of seeds and the setting out of plants to ensure the continued production needed to fill the boxes. My mind is constantly thinking of how to take advantage of every little bit of time to get something done. Efficiency and optimization play a role in every decision made. It is a lot to juggle and a constant mental puzzle that is motivating and enjoyable.
I could never do this alone. I get so much support from my wife Terri who takes over cooking duties on delivery days, puts the kids to bed, takes them to sports practices and games and so much more. She puts up with my absence in the early mornings, late evenings, and weekends as I scramble to prep and plant. I have also been blessed this spring with extraordinary efforts from Evan and Alicia in helping on many tasks in the garden. They have also recruited their friends Marilyn and David, Sarah, and Amy and Jake for brains and brawn to construct and cover caterpillar tunnels, plant potatoes, pot up plants, and more.
Working in the garden gives me much satisfaction. It is a huge sense of accomplishment to be able to see the direct results of my work. It also gives me time to think and reflect on the veggies, life, and how this all came about. I think about my parents and grandparents who were the first influences on my love of growing things. I think of my high-school sports coaches who taught me how to get up early for two-a-day football practices and the importance of hustle, no matter what the anticipated outcome.
So what you’re receiving in these boxes isn’t just the end product of the labor of my hands or the growth of seeds planted a few weeks ago. It is the combined product of the impact of the people, events, and experiences in my life over the past 47 years. Although the juggling act this spring has been tougher than I anticipated, I think the garden is off to one of the best starts so far. As the weather warms and settles and more vegetables get established, the daily chores will decrease and the physical work will ease. Each day I love more and more what I see in the growth, sustainability, resilience, and endurance of the plants and people of the garden.
Be Abundantly Nourished,