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September 22, 2009 / Maleesha Kovnesky

What I Did This Summer – part 1

I didn’t die or anything. I am still here. You wouldn’t know it from my lack of blogging over the summer. But now it’s autumn, or “pre-winter” as we like to call it here in Montana (actually that’s not true, I have never heard anyone call it “pre-winter” but that is kind of what it is) and I am now going to relax a bit.

So I feel as if I should explain my absence for a couple of reasons. One, some of you have been coming here for a while and we’re buddies, so you should know. Two, because maybe you think it’s a good idea, and you will want to sign up for something like this someday.

A long, long time ago, when I was four or so, my dad took me fishing. I caught a brown trout. It was a good day. That evening, we walked back up to the road and for whatever reason, my dad decided to go find out who owned that land where we fished. He found the owner and asked if he could buy a piece of that land. The owner sold him a chunk. It wasn’t worth much, so he got a good deal on the was acres of yellowed, sun burnt straw and cactus…big red army ants and broken glass. Not a tree to be found. It had been used as a local dumping area for years. There were piles of tires, and old bottles, and ancient, rusted cars. It was something of a mess. I didn’t notice though, because to me it was like a giant yard to run around and hide in the tall grass.

Some time in the future I will tell some stories about how the land became what it is today. It’s now a thriving green speck on the satellite image, surrounded by miles of yellow wheat fields. It has a majestic view of the Tobacco Root mountains…really, you can’t ask for a better view, and a wide, rolling river winds by. The dump was cleaned up long ago. In the summer, veritable fireworks of flowers light up the ground with every color imaginable. Well over a hundred different species of birds can be spotted over a years’ time. Mountain bluebirds, bald eagles, cedar waxwings, the endangered curlew, killdeer, whooping cranes, and various herons are just a handful of the winged friends that visit and live there. Moose and deer are regulars. Last year we had a wolf run by, and this year, we had our first bear.
A few trees (planted that same year of my childhood fishing trip) are over thirty feet tall, and many more are on their way to becoming sources of shade. It’s not anything you’d see in a magazine. The lawns are not perfectly groomed. There are random piles of wood here and there. It’s a working, living, used piece of land…perfection not needed. There is an orchard. And gardens…oh, the gardens. That is where this story actually starts.

My family has been growing vegetables on the land for years. Ridiculous amounts of vegetables. Enough to eat whole meals of vegetables for every meal all winter long, for more than one family. In the fall, my dad would invite people out to raid the gardens, and they would leave with crates and crates of great tasting food that never saw a pesticide or a spray.

Last winter, my dad’s good friend passed away in a freak ski accident. Not only was he a great friend, but he was also a guy that gave my dad a lot of handyman jobs. With the economy worse than ever, finding work was becoming harder and harder for my dad and my brother. I can’t remember how the idea came up (I’m so freaking tired that I can’t remember much of anything) but all of a sudden, we all needed money. And we needed a way to get money. I thought about the people who came out every year and left with crates of vegetables.

I had been reading about the Community Supported Agriculture model for a while. It’s a cool system that helps support local growers, while providing consumers with fresh, healthy and in-season produce. Here is how it works: the CSA farm seeks shareholders, which pay a set price at the beginning of the season. In return, the shareholders receive a weekly portion of the vegetables all season long. What makes a CSA different from say, farmers markets or co-op stores, is that there is a certain risk factor built in. A CSA is like having a personal farmer that you entrust to grow vegetables for you. You invest in the farm, and your return comes in the form of tasty produce. The risk part comes in the form of hailstorms, freezes, or other disasters that can strike the farm. If these things happen, the shareholders receive fewer vegetables than would have been provided in a great season. If all goes well, and the season is wonderful and the farmer is doing a good job, then shareholders get enough food to power their family through the week, and sometimes enough to give away themselves. Think of it as a stock market for tomatoes.

I thought Why can’t we do this? It would just take some organization…

(Part 2 tomorrow…I was going to finish this tonight, but i need sleep)

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6 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Paloma Pentarian / Oct 11 2009 10:53 am

    Let us know how this has actually worked out for you.

  2. teeni / Oct 9 2009 10:05 am

    Funny, my hubby and I were discussing this a few days ago and we are considering joining a CSA group next year. Sorry about the loss of your dad’s good friend.

  3. David / Oct 2 2009 5:33 pm

    I ♥ this post. Vegetable gardening is wonderful work, on SO many levels.

    I totally agree about autumn being “pre winter”. Winter is a big deal where I live too, though maybe not as big a deal as where you are. Montana and Dakota weather is what we New Hampshire folks listen to so we don’t feel so bad about our own. 🙂

  4. Noscere / Sep 25 2009 6:11 am

    Just a question, the pictures you have at the top of your blog, are they taken from the land your Dad bought? I am liking the way you talked about the plants and flowers rocketing up. vwery nice, I could almost picture the flowers

  5. morethananelectrician / Sep 23 2009 1:16 pm

    That sounds like a neat program, but a lot of pressure…looking forward to reading about how it went.

  6. Fawn / Sep 22 2009 11:48 pm

    I already knew about the CSA because of Facebook, of course, but good on you for getting through the season! I hope it was as financially successful and you wanted it to be. We took part in a CSA program (way up here in Yukon!) a few years ago and I loved how it stretched my horizons when I got veggies that were totally alien to me!

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