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A Love Letter to Brookfield Farm

16 Jun

My apologies for not writing in a while. I had a bad bike accident and, among other injuries, broke my elbow. Typing has been tricky but I am finally on the mend and feeling inspired by the start of CSA season. Results from the most recent RecipeHacking challenge will be posted soon, I promise. I wrote this last Saturday, June 11th and thought I should probably get it up here before our next visit to the farm. 

Today was the first pick-up day for our CSA farm share. After a year away, we returned to our favorite farm in the happy valley, Brookfield Farm in Amherst.

This morning it was raining cats and dogs. My son woke up early. My husband wasn’t feeling well so decided to stay home. I was grumpy. I was looking forward to bringing breakfast and hanging out at the farm with my family all morning. Things did not feel like they were going my way. As much as I’ve been looking forward to CSA season starting, today it was feeling like a long drive and a bit of a chore to go. But as soon as I pulled into the familiar parking lot and walked into the shop and looked out to the fields, I felt all the grumpiness and tension vanish.

We picked up our greens and our darling little French breakfast radishes. Despite the rain, we were invited to go ahead and pick strawberries. And not just a little handful, but 2 quarts!!! Toby and I tromped off into the soggy fields. He was undeterred by the weather and made me forget to be cranky about it. He delighted in the squishy mud and the rooster crowing as we passed by. I told him he was saying “cock-a-doodle-doo – welcome to the farm Toby” which Toby repeated and turned into a song as he marched up and down the rows. The strawberries were beautiful and plentiful and I quickly filled our two berry baskets. After that we made our way over to the rhubarb. Toby says “woo-barb” and I love it. He helped me carry the stalks after I cut them and he waved the big leafy fronds like he was landing an airplane. We looked for the pigs but couldn’t catch a glimpse of them, most likely hiding from the rain in their little hut. (I thought pigs were supposed to like mud!)

Back at the shop I had a nice chat with Pete, one of the farm apprentices. I talked with him about why we left Brookfield (location) and why we decided to come back (community). Talking through it all, I realized I have a new appreciation for all the special things about Brookfield. Despite the distance, Josh and I agreed it was the sense of community that Brookfield fosters that made us long for it last year. The picnic tables invite you to linger. The kids area is within view of the shop and has a sandbox and other toys. I love chatting it up with other shareholders as we’re picking out our veggies or harvesting in the fields, comparing recipes or notes on how to preserve our bounty. Brookfield feels like a well-oiled machine and being a member there and being part of the community there feels easy. So, in the end we were convinced, it’s well worth the drive. This year we decided it’s about committing to making our visit to the farm a weekend event every Saturday morning. Rain or shine, as our little boy in his big rubber boots will remind us.

Today I caught a glimpse of what this season is going to be like on the farm with Toby, filled with wonder and discovery and a million questions. And I already know, it’s going to be magical. When we first moved to the area and joined Brookfield, I remember seeing other people with their small children in the fields. And I remember thinking how cool to be able to provide this kind of learning opportunity and connection with nature and our food. Now that I have a child of my own, I’m glad Brookfield will be the place where Toby will be making all kinds of discoveries – this season and in seasons to come.

Today at Brookfield it felt like coming home again. Looking out at the fields and surveying the land before I climbed back in the car to drive home, I almost cried – I was so overcome by a sense of belonging. So, thank you Brookfield Farm. It feels so good to be back.

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Strawberries with My Son

16 Jun

This morning my 19 -month-old son Toby and I went to the farm. So far, I think it has rained every time we’ve gone and we haven’t been able to take advantage of the u-pick fruits and veggies. Normally we go in the afternoon to pick up our share at the shop but after hearing the weather forecast calling for rain yet again, I decided we needed to seize the moment and go pick some strawberries.

I wasn’t sure what Toby would think – if he would get bored, if he would stomp all over the strawberries.  At first he was very hesitant, watching me carefully as I a picked some berries and put them in the basket. Then he cautiously brushed his hands through the leaves and berries himself.  At first I don’t think Toby  made the connection. But then, I popped one in his mouth. The look of wonder on his face was priceless. It moved me so much I almost could have cried. He got really excited then and kept asking for more. I gave him his own basket with some berries in it. He promptly sat down between the rows of strawberries and gobbled them all. Eventually he got brave enough to pick some himself and even copied me, plucking the green stems off before eating them. After Toby ate probably double what we were allotted in our share this week, I thought it best to call it quits before he gave himself a stomachache. Leaving the strawberry field was tricky. How do you explain to a toddler that the strawberries are “all done” when he is standing in an enormous field abundant with perfect, ripe, lusciously red berries? I tried to get him excited about going to pick peas. He was only somewhat convinced. When we got over to the rows of sugar snap peas I picked a big fat one and handed it to Toby. He took a tentative nibble off the end and then threw the rest in the dirt. Trying another tactic, I split one of the shells open and showed Toby the row of peas inside. There was that look of wonder again!

It is times like these I am so grateful for where we live and that I have the ability to give my son this opportunity to learn exactly where his food comes from first hand.  Even at this young age, I know he is getting something out of this experience. The look of curiosity and wonderment when he was eating food right off the vine today is proof to me.

I think too often I put a lot of pressure on myself to do better or do more. I hold myself to impossibly high standards and make promises to myself that I have a hard time keeping. Spending some time at the farm this morning with Toby was a much needed reminder of how we are living according to our values and it feels really good. This is something I know I am doing right!

Nice to meet you, Mountain View!

2 Jun

This is it – the day we’ve been waiting for all spring – it’s FARM DAY!!!

Today marks the first day of farm share season at our new CSA. As you know from reading previous posts, Mountain View Farm has some big shoes to fill. After being members for the past five years at Brookfield Farm, one of the first and most well-established CSAs in the country, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a new place. It kind of felt like a blind date with Mountain View after just going through an amicable break-up with Brookfield. We still love each other but know now is not he right time for us to be together. Time to meet someone new and test out another relationship. But will they be able to measure up to my ex? Will they be able to fulfill my needs and desires? I have to say Mountain View made a pretty good first impression. People were friendly, things seemed well-organized, and the setting was outstanding. Mountain View is nestled at the base of Mt. Tom and the landscape is gorgeous. It was also reassuring to realize Mountain View and I share some mutual friends. I saw lots of familiar faces at the farm today.

Today we picked up green leaf and red leaf lettuce, bok choy, broccoli, kale and beautiful little red, white, and purple radishes. The strawberries weren’t quite ready but we strolled around, took in our new surroundings, and helped ourselves to a little cilantro and dill out in the u-pick field.

I’m pleased to say we made dinner using four ingredients from what we picked up in our share today! (Stay tuned for that recipe in an upcoming post!) We’re off to a good start and it’s only going to get better.

Mountain View, I think you and I are going to get along just fine.

Raspberries and Piglets

18 Aug

We missed picking our farm share up this weekend because we were out of town so I went late this afternoon with Toby. I was expecting to just run into the farm shop, grab a few veggies, and then head off again – but then I saw on the “you pick” chalkboard that the raspberries were ready. So with Toby strapped onto my back with his little sunhat on, we marched to the far end of the farm.

Continue reading

Good news and bad news

1 Aug

The good news is that it was a beautiful morning at the farm and I returned home with my tote bags heavy with vegetables. I picked up some gorgeous fennel bulbs (which a fellow shareholder gave me a good tip about grilling), an enormous zucchini, some carrots, beets, cute little pickling cucumbers, lettuce, kale, and for the first time this season some sweet corn!

The bad news is that like many farms in the area, Brookfield has been stricken by the potato blight. The disease lives on live tissue/vines so Farmer Dan and his crew mowed the potato fields. They’ll leave the potatoes underground for a couple of weeks in hopes that the potatoes will be salvageable, albeit small. (Little potatoes are better than no potatoes.) The extra sad, heartbreaking news is that it’s likely the blight will spread to the tomatoes. Folks at the farm say it’s probably only a matter of time but I’m trying to remain optimistic.

While I am disappointed about the potatoes, as I’m sure many other shareholders are,  I can’t imagine how the folks who work at the farm are feeling after all the hard work they have put into making these crops grow and prosper. I spoke with one very crestfallen intern today.

So, join me in sending a little prayer to Mother Nature. May our potatoes be safe from the rot, tucked in their underground beds, and may they continue to grow. And may our tomatoes be strong enough to resist the blight. And may the farm workers know that we still greatly appreciate them even when things don’t go right or seem downright disasterous.

Food Fighters in the New York Times

22 Oct

The New York Times hits another home run with their great slide show on “food fighters.” In the piece they profile 7 groups of young people who are challenging us to think about our food in new ways, and putting the structures in place to connect thought and action.

I was particularly struck at the intersection in most of these profiles between writing and action. Many of the projects are spearheaded by at least one author. I love the way these folks are connecting the power of land and language.

Check out the slide show at the New York Times site.

Two Takes on Food, Farms, and Community

10 Oct

On October 7th, the New York Times published two separate articles that explored the connection between food, farming and community. The two articles, published in two different sections of the paper (NY Region and Food & Wine), are interesting for the fundamental differences in the stories they tell.

Published in the NY Region section of the paper, “Sweat Equity Put to Use Within Sight of Wall St.” by Jim Dwyer profiles a small community farm project in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The article describes Red Hook this way: Continue reading