Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Review: Stearns Farm CSA

I mention 'the farm' a
lot in my posts. We
belong to a local CSA
(Community Supported
Agriculture) farm called
Stearns Farm. I won't get
into its history (check out
their website though, it's
very informative), but I
do want to talk about what a wonderful asset the farm is in our lives.

Once a week we fill up bags full of locally grown uncertified organic produce grown just a couple miles from our suburban home. It is fresher and tastier than anything found at the supermarket. We have the satisfaction of helping it grow, the appreciation of the work it takes to get it to the farm stand each week, and the piece of mind of knowing who ordered the seeds, planted, weeded, harvested, washed, and sorted the food we eat. We put in 12 hours of work at the farm over the course of the season. When the kids are older I am sure we will volunteer additional time too.

The current farm manager, Kathy Huckins, just celebrated her 10th anniversary at Stearns Farm. Her speech at the Harvest Festival last weekend got me thinking about how the farm is about more than just food for us.

Picking raspberries and
cherry tomatoes at dusk
by myself gives me a half
hour respite from hectic
family responsibilities.
Grabbing some herbs for
a meal as needed without
visiting a supermarket or
increasing our carbon footprint gives me hope for the future of our planet. Sitting at the edge of the snow-covered flower garden in March and peeking into the greenhouse full of sprouting flats reminds me that the seeminglyendless winter will not last forever.

But most importantly the farm gives us a sense of community. As a family of atheists we do not join in a weekly religious group. There are atheist meet-ups, the Harvard Secular Society, and various other local non-religious groups. A sense of community is often what we humans crave most, religious or not. For us, our involvement at Stearns Farm fulfills that communal niche.

I am happy that our children
are included in the work at
the farm. There is a children's
garden, tea time crafts on
pickup days, activities for them
at festivals, a farm camp for a
few weeks in the summer, and
they may accompany the adults
during their work at the farm.
Developing a good work ethic,
learning where their food comes
from, and cooperating with others are fun and enriching experiences for them.

The outreach programs at the farm are also impressive. Approximately $10,000 worth of extra produce is donated to area shelters annually. And a few times each season residents of transitional homes come
to help with the heavy
harvests and farm work.
The farm attracts local
teens who would rather
earn summer cash working
outdoors than in a fast
food restaurant. And there
are individuals who "work
for share" instead of paying
for their produce.

This year the farm is expanding its production and growing season with a root cellar and mobile greenhouse. We will be one of the first to receive a winter share of cold-tolerant greens and root vegetables through January. What a treat it will be.

Use the locator tool at
Local Harvest to find
a CSA near you, or a
farmer's market,
restaurant, or grocery
store that carries locally
grown foods. Every farm
is unique, but there's
bound to be one near you that can enrich both your diet and your life.

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