Tomorrow everything changes...

...for the better. It's amazing thinking about the surge of energy and health that I get from the CSA produce. It's amazing to think about the variety that will enter our diet. But it's not just my diet that's effected. It's also my budget, my decision-making process, my sense of connection to the land around me.

My parents are from India. They come from rural, farming communities. Farms where banana, mangoes, and maize grow. An unexpected result of joining a CSA is the renewed relationship with my parents. Growing up, we always had a garden with tons of zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes. My mother always cooked from scratch and the result is that my body has a strong constitution. I got the necessary nutrition I needed as a growing girl.

We share our CSA box with my parents. While I am generally looking for "American" recipes for this fresh, abundant produce, my mother incorporates it into her Gujarati cooking. It's interesting to see what she chooses to do with it all. And this year, I'm going to pay more attention as I realize that I need to gain these skills. Sometimes all I crave is a good Gujarati meal full of cooked vegetables, rice and dahl, and sometimes a curried chicken.

This year, we are going to make the effort to visit the farm. I am curious about my parents' reaction to the farm. Will they find similarities? Will the wandering goats and chickens bring up memories of their own childhoods in India? Will the smell of damp dirt and growing vegetables connect them to this land in ways that living in the Twin Cities suburbs for 30 years hasn't?

OK, so now let's talk budget. This is my fourth year with Harmony Valley CSA and I have to admit, every spring there is a struggle to get the money together. Thankfully the time coincides with tax returns. But, then when I get over how the big chunk of money gouges into my budget, I realize that I won't be paying any more for vegetables for the rest of the summer. My grocery store and coop spending drastically reduces as spring turns into summer and continues well into the fall. My primary purchases during the CSA season is meat.

The cost is $890 for 30 weeks. That breaks down to $30 a week per box. Split this in half because I share with my mom, and now I see I'm paying $15 a week for the freshest, yummiest, organic produce in the region! That's cheap! Especially if you consider the cost of organic produce in the grocery stores and coops. And this produce is SO much more fresh as it is generally picked a day or two before the delivery date.

I haven't tried the meat share yet for two fairly good reasons. First, I just don't have the freezer space for all that meat. Second, I buy my meat from a local meat market, Ready Meats. The beef is corn fed and purchased from smaller meat processors, and not from those large-scale production farms. I asked the butcher one day. I was scared to ask, but I did, and was happy with the answers. I can buy just the right amount for whatever I am cooking that day and I have tried different cuts of meat, something I never would have done if choosing my meat from the grocery store.

My decision make process is decidedly different during the CSA season. The question of "what's for dinner?" changes to "what should I do with this vegetable?" My usual process is to select meat choice or find an interesting recipe, then select the side dishes to go with it. During the CSA season, I focus more on what is on hand. For example, I'll get some sunchokes or baby bok choy, then think about how I will prepare it, and finally, choose a meat that goes with those flavors. It's a slight shift, but big enough to bring me some peace in my life.

Cooking is different for me. I spent many decades sticking with recipes. Now, it's about using what I have in my fridge or pantry to concoct a meal. I find myself using some standard ways to prepare a variety of vegetables. I have this great mustard and honey glaze for turnips. I liked the flavors so much, I prepared beets and potatoes the same way. It reminds me of my mother's Gujurati cooking where many different vegetables can prepared using the same, simple ingredients. It's the flavor of the vegetables themselves that add variety to the each meal.

Finally, the change in my connection to the land. Technically, Harmony Valley is not really considered local for us here in the Twin Cities because it is located just over the state border. But, it is close enough for me to monitor local weather and consider the effects to the farm. While people can demarcate geographical borders, the weather system doesn't abide by those lines drawn in the dirt. I feel nourished by the bounty of the land. I feel connected to the Midwest. I feel grateful for a large harvest. And understand the food chain a little better when the harvest is effected by flood or drought. I feel pride for my choices that lead to the continued sustainability of small scale farming and eating local foods.

Yeah! Good things! And it all starts tomorrow!

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