Cooking Away My CSA Challenge

Today, through the magic that is the Intarwebs, I was contacted via Twitter by Heather, a journalist and foodie in Chicago who recently joined a CSA program. Realizing that she’ll soon receive boxes of seasonal produce every week, Heather created the Cooking Away My CSA challenge, to connect other techy CSA members to share ideas, recipes and stories about CSA membership.

I like her idea for a few reasons: last year, our farm was devastated by hailstorms that ruined crops of tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, and more. Week after week, we received bunches of kale, dill and beets, and then weeks and weeks of cabbage. This is the risk you take when you join a CSA. And sharing ideas about what to do with the dozens of beets still in your fridge is a lifesaver. (our salvation: Beet Cake) But more importantly, our desire to be more connected to our food is becoming very loud indeed.

Although I’ve had a (barely used) cooking blog for years, I realized that my love of food and all things local has expanded far beyond my own garden. There is a major movement in our communities to have more farmers, more markets, more ways to connect with our food. We are so disconnected from this primary source of health and well being, of our very existence, and I think we’re finally revolting.

This revolution is taking various forms. In India, farmers are committing suicide because of being overwhelmed by debt and crop failure. This year, Chinese soldiers forced Tibetan farmers to plant their crops at gunpoint, and some refused. In other places, the growth of farmers markets and seed purchases hail increasing interest in growing, cooking and preserving our own food. This spring I helped to start a project in Denver focused on connecting local food growers and establishing more food gardens. And my organization is in the midst of launching a food business incubator, to nurture the development of more food related businesses in our own community.

I believe that all of this is happening because we’re waking up to the pitfalls of a society that has valued profit above all else. What happens when mega corporations own all our sources of food? If we continue to treat one another and our resources as simply numbers on a spreadsheet, we will continue to suffer.

Our CSA starts in two days. Gerry has already called me, excited about her first year as a CSA member. She told me about how her family goes through jam faster than she can make it, and how she’ll use the fruit from her share to stock up on yummy preserves. When I shared my envy about her jam making skills, she proclaimed, “well, I’ll just come over some weekend and show you how to jam! It’s SO easy! Then you can teach all your friends how to jam, too.” What may seem to be a small statement, a casual offer to share a recipe, to me is so much more. In that one offer, Gerry shared the essence of what it means to be human. It is our nature to freely share what we know and have. Joining a CSA or shopping at a farmer’s market or teaching a stranger how to make jam is about so much more than food. It’s about remembering and relearning how to take care of ourselves and one another.

Local food can be our access to stronger, healthier communities – from the community of cells and organisms that make up our bodies,  to our neighborhoods, towns and cities. And beyond that, to our ecosystems and social systems and nation states. And it starts with people like Gerry, being intentional about how she eats and sharing her food knowledge with others.

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