Thursday, December 11, 2008

How to get your veggies for $1000 less - A look behind the scenes.

Above: Farmers L: Jesica Pascual and R: Gwenael Engelskirchen

One of the nicest things that happened since I started this blog is that one of my long held beliefs - local farms beat prices at the supermarket any day - came true. Finally taking notes and tallies I was able to prove that a CSA is a good deal and combines the three most important things for me - cheap - green - healthy - into one neat package. Here is a look behind the curtains at the people responsible for saving me and about a hundred other CSA members substantial amounts of money in 2008. Of course they also spoiled us with the quality of produce and their general positive outlook.
Here is an interview with “my” farmer Jes Pascual

Q: How long have you been a farmer and did you always want to become
a farmer?

I've been officially employed at farms on and off for the past 5 years but it was only recently that I didn't hesitate at calling myself a farmer. Along with many in my generation, I didn't even know until after my college years that people could still become farmers. Some part of me always knew, however, that I would end up working with nature and especially with plants. For a long time I thought I would go into scientific research. I've since then discovered this is what I had wanted all along.

Q: What do you think is the most amazing accomplishment for a CSA?

It think it's in the way it changes people's view of food and diet. Faced with unknown vegetables or even unknown colors of vegetables (purple carrots? Yellow zucchini?), but knowing and trusting the person who grew them, I find folks are more willing to be adventurous and open about trying new veggies. And then they realize that they like something they grew up thinking they hated. It's almost as if some people break out of a certain anxiety about food and at the same time embrace the new connection to the people and the land that provided the "real" food. It's always wonderful to see.

Farm interns: L to R: Magen Markham, Cian Dalzell and Eric Newman.

Q: How was this season? Particularly difficult or relatively smooth?

If I ever have a relatively smooth season, I'll know it's time to quit. Every year there are always challenges, whether self-imposed or provided by nature. Figuring out how to grow better beets on this land and struggling with the eggplants and peppers were only some of this year's big challenges. On the other side of things, hey, it could have been worse. I think overall it was a pretty even, slightly good year. Next year will be better, of course.

Q: Anything you will do different for next year - aka things the farm
taught you?

Something valuable that farming has taught me is that patience is not only a virtue, but it is required- at least in this line of work. You always have to wait till next year to do anything different. One thing that I did at the end of this year that I will do again is grow beets from transplants. I will also grow more, much more, garlic. There are always new varieties to try and new techniques you hear about from other farmers. I am also always learning more about training interns. Probably that is where I have grown the most since coming to Phillies Bridge.

Q: If there was something you could ask from the members it would

The members as a whole are wonderful and honest people, whether they are saying good things or bad, and I value their frankness in the distribution room as well as in surveys. It's hard to ask anything from them because I'm not here to force feeling of community or volunteer-ship or even good eating habits. One thing that I like to see and that I hope spreads is
personal and educational involvement on the farm. If you like broccoli and don't understand why you don't get more of it- ask the farmer or come hoe the broccoli patch one day. If you like seeing children on the farm and wonder about the current state of public education, participate in the school visit programs. If you're wondering whether or not you too could grow veggies and help our planet, I'd love to help. We provide that opportunity here and I know people are short on time, but it only takes a little while and you'll be infinitely more knowledgeable afterwards. Even in the internet age, I think it's much better than looking something up on Wikipedia.

Q: Favorite vegetable - least favorite?

These days my favorite vegetable to grow is a tie between potatoes and cauliflower and my favorite to eat is string beans. I love growing potatoes because somehow I never get sick of digging them up and discovering the bounty's the five year old in me. I enjoy growing cauliflower because growing it well is a challenge and I love seeing this huge beautiful plant come from a teeny-tiny non-descript black seed. I grew up eating and enjoying a lot of stir fried string beans and I love being able to say that the string beans I grow are ten times tastier than the ones I had as a kid. My favorites often change though. In the near future I want to grow hops for super small batch beer even though I don't really drink the stuff just because I like the way the plant looks and grows. I'm also interested in trying out dryland rice, but maybe on my own land if I ever get it. Those two might be the next favorites.

Q: What do you like to do when you are not on the farm?

Right now I'm getting into home improvement with my boyfriend and his old house. It's satisfying in the same way that farming is. I tend to knit and spin yarn in the winter and this year I just bought a whole raw fleece from
the Hudson Valley Sheep and Wool Festival that I'd like to take all the way to a shawl or sweater. Next year I might take one of our sheep's fleeces and do the same. And I have to say that I do occasionally enjoy a milkshake from the diner.


earthmother said...

LOVED meeting Farmer Jes and seeing pics of the place. I got to the last paragraph – Hudson Valley – and went, "You're kidding me!" So, I Googled Phillies Bridge're in New Paltz!!

I used to live across the bridge in Rhinebeck!

I miss the Gunks!

Small, small world...getting smaller everyday with the wonders of cyberspace.

Did I tell you I'm on the waiting list for a CSA here? I think they're a smaller farm than Phillies Bridge so shares won't be as large as you get, but you really sold me on the idea of joining.

Did you get hit by that ice storm that rolled through last night?

moni said...

Yep Ice storm came and went - as usual much more brou hah hah than it should have been.
So, which CSA are looking into? If you are on the waiting list now - you should be able to get in, right? I mean it is quite a while before the new season starts. I think CSA memberships are going to be fought over like precious slots in fancy private pre-schools. LOL Finally!
Love Rhinebeck - did you ever eat at the Terrapin restaurant?

earthmother said...

If you click on the link in my previous comment it should take you to Basket of Life Farm.

No kidding about fighting over CSA shares. Verrry competitive! Just because I'm on the wait list, doesn't guarantee me a share. :(

Yup, I think I've eaten at Terrapin every time I've been back for a visit. Of course, when I lived in Rhinebeck, it was called La Parmigiana.

Cheap Cindy said...

nice blog, I am thinking of doing a CSA this year