With the return of children to school many begin to lament the end of summer. In our community we have a plethora of gardens and gardeners and if we judged summer's end by the way our gardens are producing we'd realize there's plenty of summertime still available.
Three years ago I wrote a short article for the Our Iowa magazine about Emmetsburg's Community Garden. If you've read the August/September 2011 issue of that fine magazine you've probably noticed that the article finally made it to print. I was happy to have our town recognized as being on the forefront of another great idea that truly helps to build and reinforce what community is all about.
Emmetsburg, it seems, experiences an abundance of green thumbs! We have everything from home gardeners on up to the scale of Klootwyk Homestead and Soper Farms. We even have the Gardener's Market on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings where folks gather at the courthouse to sell their excess produce.
While terms such as 'organic foods' and 'reducing our carbon footprint' run rampant in today's society we're really just capitalizing on the things that our grandparents always knew made sense. Being close to the land and our food source was more economical, provided a set of principles and ethics and benefited the health of the local community in multiple ways. Given the economic downturn that we've experienced many people are also making the most of their meals through such things as coupon clipping and food co-ops. All these options help by conserving money, improving health and promoting a healthier lifestyle.
This year I became a CSA member. Community Supported Agriculture is an alternative food network consisting of community individuals who pledge to support a farming operation where the growers and consumers share the risks and benefits of food production. It's rather like buying a subscription to locally grown organic food. CSA's usually consist of a weekly delivery or pick-up of vegetables and fruits and sometimes include items such as homemade jams, dairy products or meat. The weekly contents are not ordered by the customer but rather are selected by the provider on the basis of seasonality and availability. CSA's began in European countries and have progressed to the USA in the last 20 years.
CSA's are a great way to share in the bounty of produce and reconnect with the land with local, seasonal food direct from the farmer. Of course, if the harvest is poor due to unfavorable weather or pests that risk is also shared. For the farmer/grower this program provides cash flow to cover anticipated costs and advance working capital to help them gain financial security and relieve them of the burden of marketing the produce as it becomes available. In our area we have CSA programs in Algona and Wesley as well as right here in Emmetsburg through Klootwyk Homestead. "The customer gets to have a personal relationship with the farmer and knows exactly where the food is coming from and how it is grown", shares Ronia Klootwyk, whose CSA program runs mid June through mid October and provides enough weekly produce for a family of four. Ronia includes a recipe each week that helps her CSA members better utilize their produce. Klootwyk's offer their additional garden produce items for sale at the Gardener's Market as well as add-ons of eggs and either regular or organic chickens.
My own green-thumb is expressed only in small pots of parsley and mint and a couple tomato plants but I also have been canning and freezing some produce for my enjoyment during the coming winter. Besides being a coupon-clipper I also enjoy Shared Cooking with some friends. One night they cook, one night I cook, and we eat together to enjoy sharing the workload and delight of a meal eaten together, thereby reducing the meals we eat solo and the abundance of left-over's I might end up with otherwise. Besides, it's always nice to taste someone else's cooking and learn about their recipes.
Regardless of how you are enjoying fresh wholesome food, local produce will continue to be available for a while yet so don't lament summer's end till that last squash is gone!