by Tiana G., new 2009 CSA Workshare
It's rare that I have to leave my home early in the morning but this morning I have to be at the Evergreen Farm by 7:00 a.m. As I approach in my car I see one lone soul in a red shirt; her hands working in a hundred foot long row of peas. Soon I recognize her as my friend, Delis.
I pull into the driveway and try to pick a spot where my car won't be in the way. I catch sight of Shane, one of the owners. As he pays me no mind I head towards the house to find Tara, his wife. We meet at the gate leading to her yard and she warns me of the fierce guard dog who, she tells me, will run away if I enter the fence. He sure does sound fierce.
As I follow Tara around the farm she tells me she's going to put me with Delis picking peas. First, she gets me a clean, empty bucket and tells me the various ways people employ them. I choose her way; sitting on the open top and dropping the peas into the bucket as I sit on it. After showing me what to pick, what to let grow, and which ones to eat she orders Delis and I to visit and have fun.
Time passes quickly as I run my hands through the tangled curly-cues of the vines. Delis shows me to hold a pod up to the sun to check if the peas are big enough to matter. Tara brings another couple to our row and starts them at the other end. As we four make progress towards each other, I discover that sometimes at the end of a vine there will be a cluster of pods, and if they're all ripe they make a fun sound as they bump around together. This magical drumming calls me to the best-tasting peas and I shake them lightly for pure delight.
Eventually, Delis and I meet up with the other couple and we call the row finished. When we report back to Tara she dumps our pickings on a round, pretty green table. Tara asks if I have nice writing. As my face contorts into a "Huh?" Delis answers for me. "Yes, she does." So, Tara hands me a marker and a long roll of labels. I am to write: Shell Peas 1 lb., making sure to put enough space between the 1 and the l. As I write, Delis sticks the label on clear plastic bags. Next, Tara shows us her selection process, how to weigh them, and how to seal the bags.
The three of us finish quickly as Tara flutters in and out. With her long, red hair in a braid, her khaki cotton clothing, and tall, dark Wellington boots her appearance takes me back to my time in England. I puzzle, though, about what she keeps in the small, black fanny-pack around her waist. I decide to ask her later when no one else is around.
By this time, Delis has to get back home to her young children and she grudgingly bids us, "See ya."
My next assignment is to help the couple I met earlier clean up and bunch together what Tara calls scallions. Looks like green onions to me. I enjoy getting to know Beth as we work together on this easy chore; her husband, Steve, spraying the dirt off the scallions before we get our hands on them. Too soon, Beth has to leave to open up her shop and Tara steps in to finish the scallions. Steve gets to clean up after us when we're done.
My final job is to help Steve weigh and package small tomatoes into red or orange net bags. Tara holds up an orange tomato and asks if I'd ever tried one. They are a new breed that are sweeter and she insists I try one. I had never before eaten a tomato like it was a juicy, ripe fruit. Wanting to be in with the in-crowd I courageously dig my teeth into it. Quite surprisingly, I find it has a lovely flavor. I scarf it down and avoid selfishly grabbing another. Tara brings in a few more buckets and I have to keep count of how many net bags we accumulate.
It's twenty to twelve and we're done. Tara now has a three-door fridge full of produce for her trip to the Jackson Farmer's Market tomorrow. I compliment her on the awesome set-up that they have. She tells me they couldn't manage without the help of the workshares. She gives me a tour of the farm: five green-houses, colorful rows of lettuce, and herb garden, and a chicken tractor. Every place I see shows signs of Tara's enviable organizational skills.
As we walk towards the house, Shane brings handfuls of the ingredients for their lunch. I thank them for giving me this chance to learn and tell them I'll be back next Friday.
My membership with the Evergreen Farm, which is a Community Service Agricultural farm obligates me to work five hours one day a week as well as eight hours at the beginning and the end of the season. In return, my family and I can enjoy fresh, local grown produce; some of which we've never heard of before. I'll be searching for new recipes and puzzling over the contents of that fanny-pack.