When’s the last time you got dirty?  I mean dirty as in real honest-to-goodness DIRT.  Covered in it.  Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I was this dirty.  I’d forgotten how much fun it is.  The cause of all this talk of dirt?  Because I was digging red potatoes.  Farmer Dave explained that the best way to get to them without hurting your back was to kneel in the dirt and dig what’s in front of you.  So we did. I was in shorts.  Thus, I got pretty well covered in dirt.

Who is this Farmer Dave?  Well, he’s the guy who’s in charge of the Sisters Hill Farm in Standfordville, NY where I’m volunteering for a week.

Sisters Hill Farm Sign

Why farming?  Well, why not?    I am, after all, a Renaissance Soul and this was just another in a long list of things I’ve wanted to try.  So when Mom saw the ad for volunteers, she called me up.  Not just because it was a farm with a CSA program, but also because it’s run by the Sisters of Charity – and I’m a big fan of volunteering with Sisters.

So here I am, living in a turn-of-the-century house, rising at 5:30AM, digging potatoes, cutting zucchini, cleaning garlic, and doing whatever else needs doing.  Today the shareholders come to pick up their produce so our first two days have been filled with harvesting.  Later we’ll get into some weeding and maybe even some planting.

Sisters Hill Farm CSA Pick-up

I’m off to meet the shareholders – they’re the folks who paid money at the beginning of the season for a share of the bounty every week from May til October.  On the left, you see just some of the food they’ll get today.

In the meantime, for info on CSA’s near you, click here.  And if you haven’t been in the dirt in a while, I highly recommend it.

Kohlrabi and More Praise for the Farmer’s Market

“What’s that?” asked my Little Sister.  We were standing under a tent at my local farmer’s market, surrounded on three sides  by fresh produce.  “I have no idea,” I said as we stood in line waiting to make our purchases.  “But he’s got a price list – let’s see what’s on there that we’ve never heard of.”  And that’s how we figured out the strange looking thing in front of us was kohlrabi.

It took some time to reach the front of the line, but I didn’t mind because there was so much to take in just standing there.  The guy in front of me was buying fresh corn meal.  This was the second time in a month that I have met someone who grinds local corn into cornmeal.  The farmer was explaining what it could be used for and how to store it.  And I knew when my turn came the farmer would patiently answer all my questions, too.  I got to the front of the line and asked “What’s that?” as I pointed to what I suspected was Kohlrabi.  “That’s a thing called Kohlrabi,” he said.  We were right!

The next question I asked is the reason I love Farmer’s Markets: What do you do with it?  He explained how to bake it, or that I could roast it, or eat it raw, or put it in salads.  I asked what it tasted like, how long it would take to cook, and then said, “I’ll take one.”  It was only fifty-five cents.  For that much, it was worth the adventure of trying something new.

I moved on to the guy who sells pork and beef.  My Little Sister is a vegetarian – or at the stage where she’s trying on the idea.  I raved about this guy’s stuff anyway, and when the farmer offered us a taste test of some grilled pork she took some, too.  He apologized for not calling me in the spring for tutoring for his son.  He explained that his other daughter had been able to help instead.  “No problem,” I said.  “I’m just glad he got the help he needed.”  I then explained to my Little Sister that I had bought meat from this guy over the winter.  I went to his house to pick it up as he doesn’t sell at winter farm markets.  And during that conversation he found out I tutored math and took my number.

“Now these are wonderful,” he said as he pulled some frozen ham hocks out.  “For soups, you mean?” I asked.  “Well, you could use them for that, but I just put them in a crock pot, cover them with water, and they just melt off the bone when they’re done.”  I’d never bought let alone cooked with ham hocks before.  I was in.  “All right – I’ll take them.  And some of your sweet sausage.”  I explained to my little sister, “This is the best sausage ever,” recalling the first time I ever bought meat from him was the day he was offerings tastes of his sausage.

I ran into one of my former high school teachers there, and his wife who is in my crochet group.  I introduced my Little Sister and after a chat with them she said, “You know everyone here!”  I laughed as we made our way to the bakery tent where I introduced her to the delights of Hello Dolly bars.

And then I realized her comment was just another reason I love farmers markets.  Yes, you may run into someone you know at the grocery store.  But how often do you meet the people who grow your food?  Probably never, because most of them live in California or Florida or Kansas.  I first started coming to Farmer’s Markets in an effort to buy local and reduce my environmental impact.  Then the additional perks just kept piling up: the food tastes better, there is much more variety, I can look at something and, instead of wondering what it is, I can simply ask and then learn how to make it.  I don’t have to wait on long lines being tempted by candy bars on either side of me.  I may wait on a line, but everyone on it wants shares similar values to me and wants to chat.  A lot of them even have cute dogs with them.  And I get to build relationships with local people.  People who are doing something they love and want to share it with others.  How can you beat that?