Full Share: Acorn Squash, onion, zucchini, sungold tomatoes, Slicing tomatoes, Shishito peppers, carrots, and ?

Partial Share: Acorn Squash, onion, zucchini, Sungold Tomato, Slicing tomatoes and ?

Hello CSA members!

This weekend I made my annual pilgrimage to the summit of the Great Northern. I don’t know why I love this hike so much, but whenever I recover enough from the fatigue of farming to get in a summer/fall hike, this is what I usually choose. Maybe I’m a sucker for tradition.

After a two mile slog straight up through the forest, this is the view that greets you. I’m always amazed at how far away the summit looks. To think a person, with some effort, can make it from this point to the summit and back in 4 hours is hard to believe.

The entire way up, I couldn’t help but contemplate how similar hiking this mountain is to being a small, local, organic farmer. I mean, you start off by looking at the photos online, and thinking “wow, that looks so cool!” Then you show up, and realize that no one else is there 🙂

What, no one else want’s to do this? What is it that everyone else knows about farming or the Great Northern that I am missing? And really, I think the answer is simple…its HARD! You get out of the car, you walk about 30 seconds, and then it’s straight up. One foot in front of the other. No shortcuts, no e-bikes, no chairlift. Just persistence and forward movement for 5,000 vertical feet. If you can get through the physical, mental, and weather challenges, you might make it to the summit. Many give up. Very few are probably dumb or romantic enough to do it year after year.

And once you arrive at the summit, the real reasons “why” you did it may not be all that clear. Sometimes the view at the top can be cloudy. Should I have done something else with my time? And, in reality, the summit is the equivalent to mid-July on the farm, when the fields are chock full of lush green vegetables. You are only at the halfway point. You now have to descend that same 5,000 feet, and the descent is often more challenging (or downright painful) than going up. Especially the last two miles.

But the main lessons in all of it is that the destination really isn’t the point anyway. If you can find joy along the entire way, stopping to take in the views, savoring that brownie you’re so happy you brought, and basking in all the crazy weather…the heat, the wind, the cold, the clouds…it makes for a very tangible, pure, and fulfilling 6 and a half hours. Or, 6 and a half months, if we’re talking farming. To be outside, fully present to the moment….that for me, is what it’s all about. So many of the other reasons just seem to fall apart under close scrutiny. Climbing this mountain nourishes ones spirit. And farming like we do nourishes one’s body and one’s community. Those are good goals in life.

It has been a hard year from the standpoint that I have watched so many of our fellow farmer friends and peers get their asses handed to them by the weather. Hail storms, non-stop rain, flooding, and drought have taken a toll on a lot of small farmers this season, from California to Montana to Vermont….the most recent a hail storm just last night in Idaho. And in the contemporary world, a lot of these farmers are intelligent, talented, educated people who could be successful at a lot of other things if they chose to do them. Not many small farmers are doing this because they HAVE to. And while we all believe so strongly in healthy food, local economies, relationships, and putting care into what we do….every time I experience, or watch others experience, the stress and challenges are farming, I realize just how tenuous the local food system is. Every small farmer that gets pummeled by hail just cracks the door open a little bit further for the anonymous industrial food system to step in with its processed food. And even that statement is a bit romantic, in that about 99% of the food that most Americans have access to is already processed. So maybe I’m just trying to hold onto that last 1%.

This week the Real Organic Project newsletter featured farmer and author Krtistin Kimball, who said of small organic farmers….

“I think our job right now is to hold the space of possibility for a better system and to try to keep normalizing for people what good food is. The solution is probably a policy solution that we don’t have the political will for in our country right now, but I believe at some point in the future we will. So a combination of a change in policy and culture and interest in the way that we eat – I have to wake up and believe that that’s possible and that it’s on the horizon somewhere and then our job is to steer toward it as much as we can and to hold a joyful light on what food can be.”

Personally, I just don’t know. That’s such a hard ask. Is that some sort of rationalization that allows us to keep doing what we doing under increasingly difficult odds? Doesn’t it completely defy everything that is happening now? How far off at the horizon are we looking? Won’t most people just adapt to eating lower quality processed food over time….I mean, haven’t we shown a willingness to do that already? Isn’t a chronic illness rate of 60% enough of a wake up call? Clearly not. But giving up seems a bad choice as well. Many people who have sought positive change have fought far longer than we have.

So, yes, things can often seem a bit cloudy. At the end of the day, when I decide to no longer climb the Northern, I do hope that some other young person will go in my place. Is anyone teaching them to go there? I sure hope so. But I can see why they wouldn’t.

Aaaaand, sure, here is a recipe idea for those Acorn Squash.

See you at CSA pickup!