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Delicious Living Blog

Community Supported Agriculture: A farmer's perspective

You know those moments when you feel as if the stars are in alignment? As if someone’s watching out for you? Like when you’re running late for an appointment and every stoplight turns green as you approach it. Or like when a new job crosses your radar exactly when you start feeling the unshakable need for a professional change of scenery? Well, last Friday night I experienced one of those moments—it was neither fleeting nor momentous—but it was magically affirming on a personal scale.

My husband Jason and I own and operate Isabelle Farm, an organic market farm in unincorporated Boulder County, Colorado. As far as I can tell, few professions feel more uncontrollable than organic farming. You’ve got the weather to contend with, and the pests, not to mention soil fertility, seed germination rates, and, here in Colorado, the issue of late-season water—or lack thereof. The list of variables that hold sway over whether or not a season finds us in the red or in the black goes on, but the point of all this is that organic farming on the scale we do it teaches you to appreciate successes and learn from—and then let go of—failures.

Which brings me back to last Friday evening, the night of our 2010 Farm Stand Grand Opening celebration. The brainchild of our farm stand manager, it was the first such event we’ve held. Molly’s (pictured at right) festivity lineup was deep—fresh food from the field prepared on-site, drink, farm tours, live bluegrass, and more were on list. The work and investment that went into making the event happen were significant, so we hoped that the forecasters’ predictions were wrong. For once, they weren’t. At about 3 p.m., a booming thunderstorm rolled in. A deluge of rain poured down from a blanket of dense, dark gray clouds and we figured that was it—we’d be feasting and dancing by ourselves that evening. But just as quickly as it rolled in, the storm rolled out, leaving in its wake a crisp, clear evening.

When I pulled into the driveway, something about that air made me call a friend who’d been on the fence about attending to say “Please come; it’s amazing out here right now.” And I’m glad I did. Everyone who came that night—CSA members, neighbors, friends, farm stand patrons, the band, and folks who’d simply been driving by and stopped to see what was going on—seemed to enter a time and space warp of sorts. A place where the power of local, and organic, and community, and nature, and the cycles of life made the possibility of a cleaner, healthier, happier world seem possible. Yeah, yeah, I know, sounds a little Pollyanna. But there was an electric buzz in the air that everyone present seemed to feel. And as the bluegrass quartet played in front of the tractor mural that graces the stand’s east wall and we danced to the setting sun and munched on chiles straight from the roaster and sweet corn fresh off the grill, I just kept thinking—and people kept saying—it doesn’t get any better than this.

And today as I write this, the buzz rises up inside me again. It’s the buzz of knowing that we can make a difference in our own little ways. Whether it’s through organic farming, or volunteering, or simply offering kindness to someone who needs it. But in the context of this blog, I’d like to focus on the local, organic, and community nature of that particular moment. Isabelle Farm wouldn’t exist were it not for the support of our CSA members, our restaurant and wholesale partners, and our farm-stand patrons. We’re incredibly lucky to be located where we are—in a community that believes local and organic is part of the answer and that supporting it is worth the added expense. If you’ve ever wondered why organic or natural cost more, head out to a local farm to learn. Offer to volunteer or simply ask if you can observe. A day working in the field conveys what words can’t. Being able to eat a tomato straight off the vine without washing it feels inexplicably right. Trusting that your kids can play in—and even eat—the dirt in which that tomato was grown is thrilling. A heartfelt thanks to all those who support small farms like ours, as well as organic and fair trade practices, with their dollars, enthusiasm, and convictions—not necessarily in that order. As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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