Anyway, it turned out it was not a good time to put an 1837 house in an historic district on the market. Months ticked by, no one made a credible bid, and so Roxanne and her husband made a fateful decision that directly resulted in my delicious dinner last night: they rented their house. To a foursome of young farmers looking for a place to live with arable land attached. Which is how our neighborhood got a farm, over a century after the last commercial agriculture happened here.
New farms or revived old ones have been cropping up in Maine these past few years. I've seen it in upstate New York, too, decades after giant agribusiness drove scores of small family farms out of business. The desire of consumers to eat locally-sourced and organic foods, to have a wider array of meats, vegetables and alcohol than show up in the typical supermarket, has made previously unsupportable plots of land potentially profitable.
Which brings us to our new neighbors, Bumbleroot Organic Farm. The kids (as Ross and I call them, because we are SO OLD) came in with a plan for a viable business using three acres of land, which sounded unbelievable to me until I actually saw it planted. They lease a little less than an acre from us (I've had to tell Ross no, they aren't tenant farmers and he is not now Lord of the Manse) the same from the folks on the other side of them, and the rest from Roxanne's formerly unused back field.
Folks, I have never seen a farm so Instagrammable in my life. The young farmers are cute, the growing plants in their orderly rows are lovely, the tiny farm stand at end of their drive is marked by a chalk sign and everything seems to be continually bathed in soft Maine sunshine that's like God's Own Filter.
And OMG the produce. I've long been interested in trying a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share, but most of the area farms and fishermen distribute theirs in Portland, which is less-than convenient for me. Plus, I'm cheap, and balancing my desire for fresh and organic against the undeniably higher cost usually resulted in me going for the lower priced carrots. But I have to tell you, after receiving the first two of our CSA boxes, I am sold and will never go back.
First, the stuff really tastes better. Not to dis all the hardworking folks out picking lettuce in California, but the greens we've been eating (this early in Maine's season, our share is mostly leafy greens) are so...flavorful. It's like the difference between eating fish sticks and fresh fish.
Second, the types of produce in the weekly box are not necessarily the veggies I would have selected at a market. We've had two types a kale, for instance, a green that I have so far used more as the punchline of a joke than as a part of dinner. (Have you heard of the Brooklyn mom who named her children Quinoa and Kale?) (For reals, there are probably kids with those names running around. Dressed in organic, cruelty-free cotton rompers.)
At any rate, getting kale and Hakurai turnips and broccolini forces me to try new recipes and find new ways of using fresh vegetables in our family meals. Which, frankly, I haven't done well with in the past. (I admit to a lot of canned peas. I'm sorry.) The results have been delicious. I feel a bit like I did as a young person when I got introduced to the then-new concept of microbrewing. All it took was a couple of bottles to know there was no way I'd ever go back to drinking Schlitz. (I'm not sure it it was actually Schlitz. But it was certainly whatever mass-produced stuff was around.)
In other words, having a CSA share is fantastic, and I plan to get one next year, and the year after that, providing the
The moral of the story is: support local farming. The food is demonstrably tastier (and of great variety) than the boring selection in the supermarket, the farming methods are healthier for the environment, and - as I can personally attest - community life is enriched by having small farms as part of the mix.