By Farmer Mike
(Edited by Charlotte, until she gave up.)
You might recall a scene in “Father of the Bride” where Steve Martin takes out his soon to be son-in-law to have a beer and talk about a fight he had with his daughter regarding a blender purchase. (I’ve just spent the last 10 minutes trying to find the quote to no avail.)
Steve Martin’s character explains to his son-in-law that his daughter comes from a long line of “over-reactors”, and that with every generation, the curse of being such an over reactor is diminished. He exclaims, “Your kids might be normal!”
Our family is quite similar; however, the over-reacting does not seem to be diminishing but growing stronger. A part of this “over-reacting” trait is over-explaining. You cannot receive a gift in our family without 20 minutes of backstory, caveats, and disclaimers.
For years I (Farmer Mike, if you couldn’t tell by the cynical nature of this letter) was the sole communicator to our dear CSA members. I would send out emails regularly. For example, if the tomatoes in your bag were cracked, I felt I needed to explain why: tremendous rain. The squash might be big instead of small and delicate: someone called in sick so we didn’t have enough hands to pick all the squash beds. There are countless examples. Point is, I felt responsible for explaining every detail of the share.
Besides being exhausting for the dear member to read all this, it was frustrating as hell to me, too. I felt like I was complaining, saying, “woah is me.” Truthfully, I was trying to convey a sense of wonder… it’s amazing to plant a seed and get anything at all! You can read all the books, spend tens of thousands on compost and soil tests, tractors and fences, barns and walk-in coolers, labor and wells, land and workers compensation insurance, and a tiny almost microscopic bug could decimate a crop in a weekend, or hail, wind, or too much heat, or not enough rain, or too much rain, or an exhausted and overworked crew that simply cannot pick one more damn thing that day.
The farm is pretty much in a constant state of chaos. That is what nature is, after all. But, writing to you about all the minute details that comprise growing food can be exhausting for you, and for me. That is why I don’t over-explain (as much) with constant emails.
There, of course, are pluses and minuses to this. A plus is that you don’t have to hear me lament all the time. A minus is that the connection with the truth of the farm is somewhat lost. It’s especially hard in the time of COVID to share the experience of the farm and to educate as we are not able to gather as frequently on the farm for tours or spend time together at pick-ups.
(This is where Charlotte gave up.)
This is why I don’t write emails anymore. Things on the farm are pretty much always 95% nuts. The point, in my opinion, of joining a CSA, among many, is probably not the reason why you might have joined. You could have joined for many reasons - supporting local, nervous about food supply during a pandemic, better taste and quality than a supermarket. But as I look back over a decade of doing this, I try to think what it is I want you to most get out of this experience.
The truth is, when I sit in the barn right now, it's august, I am literally exhausted, and the excitement I had when I started this email has subsided. How can I make my point and end this note is what I am really thinking. But I do have to make some point, so I will muster everything I can to get to IT already!!!
Well I cant do it. I cant bring this email on home. I cant come up with one good thing to say to wrap this up in a bow. Perhaps that is the way it is supposed to be. The farm has taught me a ton over the years, and most important is that sometimes you have to punt.
You spend months planning, and it NEVER goes to plan. Nothing ever isn’t without a challenge or a simple solution on the farm. It is almost always, "Which option is the least worst?".
Note from Charlotte: I think Farmer Mike is trying to say that education is a very important part of the CSA experience. The hardships and triumphs of growing are essential to understand and to have a connection to our food. But, in my opinion, the line from this letter, "It’s amazing to plant a seed and get anything at all!" is really the most important message here. Let us celebrate the ability of our soil to feed and nourish us!