:: A trip to the Sunset Park CSA Farm ::
originally at SunsetParkCSA.org
(pitctures by the same)
The day my wife and I planned on visiting the upstate farm our local Sunset Park CSA supports, I was hauling around a twelve-hundred-page Brandon Sanderson novel. Hardback. My arms ached. I’ve built up their strength recently by carrying books across our city’s grid of crosswalks, but this behemoth outweighs books like The Sun Also Rises by a factor of four. I was suffering the aching forearms because this book remains the most engaging read I’ve encountered in the past three years. So I wanted (shamefully) a backup plan in case the trip was boring or pushed me too far out of my introverted bubble of pseudo-comfort.
I was not disappointed.
For starters those fresh tamales outside St. Michael’s (the site of the Sunset Park CSA) satisfied a breakfast need that may have overwhelmed the lot of us halfway to the farm if left unaddressed. We divided up into our respective vans and headed north. The cool kids in the green van had to fiddle with the AC for a bit, but we got it going. En route, I was in the back seat beside a young boy named Samuel. Samuel speaks French. I do not. So he and I spent a good chunk of the journey by me reading a French translation of I Am Malala aloud and by him critiquing my pathetic American accent.
Somewhere in there, he and I each got lost in our respective novels and then we were there, surrounded by Appalachian hill country and the relative silence of farmland and the toddler who had just finished his morning snack. For the infant, it doesn’t get much more organic. And perhaps that’s our quest as well as we all set out to live off the land in spite of our current choice to live somewhere other than on the land.
Martin was the first to introduce himself to us and, having come forward, to introduce us all to one another: “Family? These are my friends Friends this is my family,” and so on. Samuel was on the swing at this part which naturally encouraged me to begin pushing him, which also led to us switching places and the head rush of my inner parts spinning closer and closer to my outer parts reminded me of my inner kid and his petition to come out more often. I was caught up, mid-spin, in that place somewhere between pretend and reality, somewhere between a kid dependent on others and an adult in denial about his dependency. Perhaps that’s the point of a CSA — to remind us that we are not as strong as we think we are. We are frail, fearfully and wonderfully made creatures with fully derivative lives that come from the soil.
He rounded us up and took us to the fields, explaining the cultivation cycles of garlic and pumpkins to the accompaniment of shoe soles sinking into deeply-tilled earth that was once the floor of a lake. Walking the fields to this Southern Illinois native felt less like field walking and more like cloud walking, like a romp through a ball pit in some fast food play place, like bare feet on the tumble track of an acrobatics center.
“These are Toscana,” Martin said, pointing to the Tuscan kale.
Many of you know Martin as the generous and jolly soul he is, but this was news to Tara and I — at the slightest whisper of curiosity surrounding the radishes, Martin reached down and yanked up large clusters, one of which was big enough for another baby to use as a rather tart and unorthodox chew toy. Then again, maybe teething and radishes were meant for one another…
We crossed over to the corn, husking up rocks from the ground along the way, tossing them to the side and talking about how more government funds need diverted from major corporate interest towards local farmers like Martin. He educated on the necessary community component — half of his struggle is networking. That’s why we’re here, in part.
Back at the ranch, we learned recipes for salads and pesto and guacamole and pico de gallo. We learned further that pico de gallo means “The Beak of the Cock” and none of us could patch together the etymology of such a name, so we ate more chips instead, commenting on the cookery. (As it turns out, a restaurant owner in Acuna Mexico told one person that handlers calm fighting cocks by putting the rooster’s entire head into their mouths – darkness causes birds to begin REM sleep — so some handlers get bit on the tongue, just like the kick in pico).
Well we washed our fresh-picked selections and I got a little carried away and accidentally washed Jen as well. The family had made a massive batch of tamales for us like an echo to the breakfast supplemented by the tasty treats everyone had brought along.
I left burnt. My arms were scorched, but they’ve since peeled. I’m reminded that sometimes it takes some intiative to put ourselves out there, to go on unintended adventures, to give space for the kid and the adult within us to come together in “good tilled earth” as Bilbo called it, the place where pretend and reality meet. I know where my food comes from and that place between pretend and reality, between childlike growth and its source, seems to be the kind of thing we desperately need. We’re a disconnected bunch, modern Americans, and it’ll take coming together like this and getting burned as we stumble to find our way back to simpler forms of living from which modern life is derived. Yeah, it’s hard work. Sure, we’ll get burned trying to get healthy.
But we peel.