This, my first invitation to go gleaning, came in an e-mail that said, “You're welcome to come to the farm to glean by appointment. Raspberries were not picked down well on Thursday. They are ready.” To our family—who has been geeking out over fresh produce and our first CSA membership all summer—it was like an announcement that an ice-cream truck was broken down out front and giving away its inventory. By that afternoon, my daughters and I had our noses in the raspberry bushes, looking for the plumpest berries among the thorns.
If you’re new to CSAs (community-supported agriculture), they work like this: You buy a share in the spring, getting you a box of whatever the farm produces each week until fall shuts down production. You’re buying into the full serendipity of eating with the seasons and the farm manager’s choices. Over the summer, we learned a half-dozen new ways to eat Swiss chard, kohlrabi and garlic scapes. And, to be honest, every way of eating kohlrabi was new to me.
The raspberry invitation came just as the CSA was winding down its year, and our crew was the only group to answer the call. So we worked alongside Eric the farm manager, listening to his summary of a season on what was, at least in a distant sense, our farm. The mid-summer drought had taken its toll. If things had gone better, we would’ve had broccoli and sweet potatoes in our box on several weeks.
But that didn’t mean we went wanting. When we finished with the raspberries, Eric said, “Come over to the general store and see if there’s anything you want. If people haven’t claimed it by now for the week, it’s all yours.” Inside, we found mounds of peppers and apples, along with the odd bunches of kale and leeks. I grabbed some of each, even though my wife sent us out of the house with strict orders to bring no more apples back to our overflowing pantry.
But how could I resist? Like so much else at the CSA, the apples have me enchanted to the point of irritating all my acquaintances. Like some kind of misguided first-time father, I actually posted a picture of a Savoy cabbage on Facebook this summer. Our particular CSA, Homestead, employs adults who have autism, adding extra goodwill to each weekly box. As Eric sent us out the door with our bonus haul, he said, “I’m glad you came out. I want to give as many people as possible this experience.” I’ll buy a share of that. Every year.