Late this afternoon, I watched my neighbor drive his father’s riding mower up the street. (His father lives around the corner.) Presumably this was to mow his two square feet of lawn. All it made me think of, in my sleep-deprived state, is areas that really need riding mowers, or even tractors, and then my mind leapt to farm shares.
Farm share programs, aka Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), abound here in the Boston area, as they seem to in most urban areas these days. They’re a popular, though some would say elitist, way to get your produce in the summer and in some cases in the fall, too. The first year we participated in one, it was because my friend’s parents’ were running it. We got lots of great stuff at a great price from their farm, but because I had to drive an hour round trip to Medford to pick up the food every week, we decided it was too much trouble to join it again. We opted for a share closer to home and went with Waltham Fields Community Farm’s CSA instead. It was more pricey, but we split a share with a friend so it ended up costing a reasonable amount. Each week, we got to go and choose whatever fruits and vegetables we wanted from among their offerings. Once they were ripe, we got to pick raspberries off the bushes, and also snap peas and tomatoes. We could even take flowers from their gardens, which was nice until we realized that we were transporting tons of little bugs home along with our nicely arranged bouquets.
The latest thing I’ve been reading about in this area though is a bit different than your typical fruit/vegetable share, with the occasional addition of maple syrup or milk and cheese. Apparently protein shares are growing in popularity, and you can order a quarter of a pig, for example, from a local farmer. This sounds like a great idea, assuming you’re concerned about the effects of big factory farms on your meat and you want to feel like you have some knowledge of where your chicken comes from and what kind of life it had. This idea does remind me of an episode of “Portlandia” in which the characters interview their waitress about the lifestyle and the death of their chicken before they agree to order it, but I understand the desire to know these things in general. The price, though, tends to keep me away, because the thing about CSAs is that you get a lot of food at once, and if you aren’t prepared to deal with the uncertainties of cooking unfamiliar foods or, say, large amounts of kale, you end up wasting money. I felt like enough of a failure every time I had to throw out a whole cabbage, but I’d feel even worse tossing out meat.
We’re not doing a farm share this year for various reasons (though mostly, I blame the new baby), but I’m hoping to do one again in the future. Overall, though the initial expense is high, I do feel that we get our money’s worth, and it’s a fun and worthwhile experience besides that. So maybe we’ll try out a protein share someday when we come into money. It sure beats the idea of becoming an urban farming hipster, although based on their own behavior, I’m pretty sure that at least a few of our neighbors wouldn’t mind if we slaughtered our own meat.