Last week we talked about all the great experiences many of us have had with being CSA members, and today I wanted to share something that I wasn’t expecting to learn by subscribing to to one.

I knew that I would learn to eat and cook a wider variety of vegetables and that I’d be able to use our CSA as a means of teaching my kids about food and where it comes from, but I wasn’t expecting to learn so much about farming, and more specifically about how the weather effects our food supply and availability.

In our culture, we’re so used to being able to get any kind of produce, no matter what the season. But those of us who are trying to eat more locally and seasonally know how precious each crop is, as it only appears for its dedicated time– when it’s gone it’s gone.  This year I was able to get a glimpse of how, even in Southern California, “extreme” weather can do some serious damage, testing the preparedness and creativity of even the most seasoned farmers.

I wanted to share a letter with you today that I received on April 11th of this year from my farm, just to give you all a peek inside the workings, struggles and successes of a small farm.

Hello CSA Members,
The 2010-2011 season may be the most difficult year in farming ever.  Last year our first seedlings of tomatoes and squash were in the ground.  This year, the ground just isn’t warm enough and so we lost all the seedlings.  The heavy rains have been pounding the soil and flooding the fields.
Those of you that have been with us awhile may be wondering about the winter cabbage, turnips, kohlrabi and cauliflower.  Well the heavy rains literally pounded the top soil, along with the nutrients, deep into the soil and brought up the decomposed granite.  These plants were not happy and so these crops were lost.

On a brighter side, we’re so fortunate to have a forward thinking farmer and last year Joe spent considerable time, effort and expense covering over five acres of greenhouses.  Now we have cucumbers that are just starting to come in.  You should see them in your boxes more and more.  There is a huge planting of basil that will be harvesting in about 4-6 weeks.  Green beans are also growing in the greenhouses and we may be harvested around the end of May.

The sweet peas in the fields are looking great and should be producing shortly.  As you know, our last crop was ruined by a hail storm. Joe has planted a serious bed of garlic and we should be supplied with green garlic for awhile (I can never get enough of that).
The strawberry fields are looking very good and the berries are extra large this year.  However, too much rain and the fruit gets a soft spot where it touches the ground.  So a few more sunshiny days and they will be perfect.
So hang in there everyone, more variety is just around the corner.  Meanwhile enjoy your wonderful produce.

I loved receiving this letter because it continued to make so real the fact that our fruits and vegetables are products of the hard work of our farmers. They don’t just come from industrialized supermarket stock, but they have been carefully planted and tended to.

Our local farms our fragile, and utterly dependent on the weather, and I’m thankful to have such a resourceful farmer who somehow still delivers bountiful boxes of produce, even if it’s not exactly what was expected or planned.

Let’s hear it for the small farms– they were once so abundant in our country and now are rare gems in an over-industrialized, impersonal food culture!