This article rings a close to what was a magical season. And with it, like any of us facing the fall of life, I feel I have so much more to say and do before it’s all over. Yet, time has run out. We never cross the same river twice and we have no idea what the new season will bring. Now I sit with many gems yet undone all set sadly aside for another time: article topics, garden ideas and wishful progress. Over the season many have reached out to thank us for the blessings and collaboration in student agriculture that weekly passed the thresholds of their homes. However the thanks goes to you, the customer, for supporting and trusting us to provide as best nature could offer, a quality mix of produce in a timely manner. We hope we have accomplished that for you.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. This season has muddied that definition in my mind more than ever. At the beginning as checks filtered in it was clear that you support us. As the season progressed stories of triumph and joy in our produce caused me to feel we were in some way supporting you: in your eating styles, our local economy and in the environment closest to us, literally under our feet. At the end of a season when it’s appropriate to cast a net of honor I know not where to toss it. But I do.
Many stories are hard to tell in word. More than once I walk in on our morning packaging scene at the garden wishing that all CSA members, all university administration, Santa and my mom and dad could see the production around me. These students, voluntarily for the sake of respect in their product, rise on a Friday between four and five AM. They all meet on campus well before dawn to gather trucks and lists. In the mist of the early morning they head out to separate fields to harvest the required needs for packaging. Some go directly to the shop to start sorting through produce that was harvested the day before and to prep the assembly line with baskets and plastic liners. Soon those trucks wind through the dark farm roads full of students who picked that last minute fresh item. Produce like kale, lettuce and flowers all selected by truck headlight begin to flow into the shop. Buckets exploding with bounty are hauled into a large warehouse floor where tiny groups all split out to clean and prep this flash of earthy flesh and color. Music blasts from a radio on the far wall while sets if girls are clipping, measuring and tying together herbs that were harvested within the hour. The smells of all these fresh pungent gifts fill the air. The human energy is shockingly positive as they set to work in the florescent light seemingly moving with the music. Long lines of half bushels and third bushels lace tables getting filled with color. Recently printed spreadsheets litter the floor proclaiming how much of what to put where.
Before long as the rush of harvest and cleaning reaches its climax, trucks are getting backed in. The big orange cooler is loaded and strapped down. Smaller trucks back in as well all in line for marching orders, addresses and baskets. Those driving and loading trucks work with the fevered reality of time schedules and routes. Those still packing baskets stand close by one eye on filling a new order, one eye on protecting their art being loaded up in fear that the hasty delivery boys will spoil something beautiful. These students have been up for hours and they still have a smile on their faces and move with motivation and care.
Yes, if Santa could see the buzz in the creation of these beautiful packages he himself would bow to Andrews Student Garden’s workshop. It’s my favorite time to visit the garden for it truly feels like a fairytale factory. Last Friday I slipped in early, before our faculty meeting, with hopes to sneak a smell and sight. Lina was sitting by the gigantic open bay door with three heaping five-gallon buckets full of Zinnia and Cosmos popping in pinks, purples, reds and whites. She had started her day in the dark picking and now sat carefully arranging small bouquets. Each collection was being built with purpose, saved for the baskets with orders of the extra experience. She did this seemingly without a clue of the bustle that was going on around her. The smells, sounds, sights, touches and even tastes of ten minutes in that place were more positive and energizing than anyone could describe and it truly took my breath away.
I stand on the bridge of our CSA looking to one side thanking you the customer for your unbridled support. Not just for funding but of the regular spiritual, verbal and emotional lifting up and the good buzz that is passed from friend to friend. Then I look to the other side in awe of a student work force diligently, weekly leaving a part of themselves on our farm and in their work. It is they today, who I honor. - Garth
Harvest in dark frost,
reds, greens, oranges and purples.
The bounty’s over.