Welcome to the blog for Colgate University's interdisciplinary course on food. This is the place to keep up with what students in the course are experiencing in their work at Common Thread Community Farm and through their everyday encounters with food.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

First Common Thread Experience

This past Wednesday was the first morning of farm work at Common Thread.  We were lucky with very nice weather, and Elyse, Anna, and I helped harvest carrots and bag onions.  Asher was very patient with us, explaining every step of the process and answering our questions.  We'd have him double check some of our carrot designations as "firsts" (the 'regular' looking carrots) or "seconds" (the 'weird' looking ones that can be taken in addition to the given share) to avoid misplacing them.  Experiencing a morning of work on the farm really enlightened me to the magnitude of the work that needs to get done-- the land does not pause its cycle.  There is a lot of ground to cover, and a lot of labor involved in getting everything clean and ready to be picked up, delivered, or sold.

Asher used a tractor to turn over the soil to try to pull up some of the carrots from the ground.  However, even though I imagine this technology has dramatically increased the efficiency of picking carrots, it has by no means gotten rid of the manual labor required, and has caused some additional problems that would otherwise not exist.  Asher told us that the carrot row had been left for too long, which had caused some rotting in the carrots as well as overgrown weeds.  The weeds got clogged in the tractor every few feet it moved, and we needed to pull them out in order for the tractor to be able to continue turning the soil.  The tractor was not able to get deep enough into the ground, which caused the turning part of the tractor to slice many of the carrots.  The slicing caused a large portion of carrots that would have been "firsts" to be put in the "seconds" pile.  While the technology has undoubtedly helped farming efficiency, it has in no way made it fool proof.  And, in the end, with four sets of hands and a tractor, it still took over an hour to pick the carrots from half of a row, resulting in four baskets of "firsts" and four larger baskets of "seconds".  Carrots take a lot of time to harvest.

My room mates and I have a fall share at Common Thread, so I went on Saturday with a friend to pick up our shares.  This was our second week picking up a share, and after having harvested some of the vegetables myself, it was a new type of experience.  I took a few of the onions that I had helped sort a few days earlier, and instead of seeing an onion as an independent object existing on its own, I saw it as an amalgamation of the work and resources that were put into growing it and getting it into that wooden cubby waiting to be picked up.  Similarly, tomatoes aren't intrinsically "seconds", but someone took the time to, not only plant and nurture them but, sort and place them in a separate box.

On a different note, I really enjoy the vibe of the CSA.  Community supported agriculture is inherently based in community.  There is a foundation of mutual trust, which I felt both with Asher and Wendy, but also with the other people who have shares and pick up at the farm.  Attending with my friend was a more communal experience than going to Price Chopper.  And, despite the rain, we wandered into the field to pick a bouquet of flowers and some herbs.  I'm finding that the CSA experience brings people back into the food-purchasing-equation, as opposed to racing down the impersonal supermarket aisles in autopilot, barely realizing that you're being exposed to extensively thought out ways of getting you to spend as much money and time as possible.

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