Back in the spring, C. and I decided to split a share of veggie and fruit boxes from Harmony Valley Farms. It was a cost-effective choice — much less than buying an equivalent amount of completely organic produce from a store — and we both wanted to support local, sustainable agriculture. I also figured that having a box of mixed produce automatically show up every week could only improve my eating habits.
The fruit box, which is filled with items from an organic fruit co-op that seems to span the continent, has been an unqualified success. It’s amazing stuff, and we both fear that it’s turned us into total fruit snobs. C waxed rapturous on her blog (which seems to have no permalinks):
The pears were creamy and luscious, only slightly grainy. The grapefruit, perfectly pink, sweeter and less bitter. The pluots sweet and firm. The oranges the epitome of citrus sweetness. Everything was SO VERY RIPE, I felt as if I had tasted fruit for the first time. And then TODAY. Today is when I ate the last of my melons, a personal-sized watermelon. I cut it open—and—yes, it was a yellow watermelon, and likely the sweetest, most flavorful watermelon I’ve ever tasted.
The veggie box is more of a mixed bag for us. The produce is high-quality, and the farm obviously puts a lot of effort into producing lovely specimens. They also put a fair amount of thought into growing new and different things each year. I’m a fairly adventurous cook, and I’ve mostly enjoyed the challenge of figuring out what to do with unfamiliar foods. (I know now that I like black radish, for instance.) But C. hasn’t been feeling quite as up to it, which is understandable. She has a high-pressure job, and isn’t always in the mood to figure out how to cook some strange thing after a long day of logistics and text wrangling. I’m tired of trying to like certain things, and of feeling guilty about the beets and turnips that go bad because there’s nobody in this house that will go near them.
The other problem for everyone involved is the massive flooding that happened recently in Southern Wisconsin. The farm suffered major crop and topsoil loss as well as structure and equipment damage. They’ve had to lay off workers because of the lost income, which in turn means that things can’t be cleaned up and repaired as quickly because of the lost manpower. It’s a terrible time for small farmers in this part of the country right now. In spite of that, the farm newsletter reports that quite a few jerks wrote or called to cancel their shares because they “would not accept anything less than bounty.” We’ve kept our share, because we figure that when you buy into a farm you’re in for better or for worse. But the boxes are smaller. And shortly after the box pick-up the week after the storm, an email was sent out notifying everyone that some of the produce was likely contaminated by unsanitary flood waters. I ended up throwing everything out that week, and now I’m increasingly paranoid about washing food.
We’ve decided that we’ll continue the fruit box next year, but not the veggie box. Instead, C and I will resume our weekly trip to the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, where everything is local and small-farm but not necessarily organic. We’ll buy the things we want and only as much of them as we need, which will result in less waste. And it’ll be a chance to walk and talk together outside, which is something that picking up a box just doesn’t encourage.