This Labor Day week-end we were camping on the property of our CSA Farm. I subscribed for a bi-weekly delivered vegetable box from the Eatwell Farm in Dixon, CA. Every other week, I pick up a box near our apartment. The box comes with really delicious produce. Opening a box is like unwrapping a present and it always contains something I have never bought, prepared or seen before – Lemon Verbena anyone? Each colorful box also carries a newsletter, that includes detailed information about the vegetables and family and staff recipes. I like the personal note on everything and was curious about the farm, Nigel (the owner), his family and what “community supported agriculture” really means. Therefore Rajendra and I took the opportunity to participate in the “do nothing party” last week-end. We arrived on Saturday afternoon and were welcomed by one of Nigel’s sons. We swam in the pond and in the evening we shared a big potluck dinner with everyone. Nigel, his wife and sons were sitting with us around the fire and especially Nigel answered patiently all the curious questions. His teenage twin sons Eric and Andrew were sitting next to him. Sometimes they nodded in agreement with their father, made additional comments or took care of the fire. I have learnt more about agriculture, poultry limitations on organic farms, egg prices, irrigation systems, aubergines, walnut growers, fuel necessities and tomatoes in that evening, than probably in the rest of my life.
Nigel and his crew grow on a 105-acre organic farm hundreds of different crops. I learnt, that as an organic farmer you need to be a patient explorer of the soil, a very diligent observer and you need to love growing veggies.
Nigel told us many interesting stories and this is the one I share with you:
Across from the Eatwell farm is a huge, gigantic field of tomatoes. I haven’t tried them but according to Nigel and his sons, they do not taste like anything. I learnt that these breeds of tomatoes are supposed to have no taste or at the very most very little. They are grown only for the sake of their pulp. These big fields of tasteless tomatoes are harvested by a 35-foot-long machine that cuts the vine underground and lifts it into its belly, where belts and sensors return dirt, vine, root and green tomatoes to the soil. Two people on each side sort the continual stream of tomatoes manually before a conveyor transfers the tomatoes by chute to a gondola. When one gondola is full (it holds 25 tons), it’s replaced by another. The tomatoes are bred to ripen simultaneously because there is just one harvest and they work 24 hours in 2 teams. The tomatoes across Nigel’s farm go to the big Campbell tomato soup factory.
This little can of iconic American condensed tomato soup has been around for 130 years and is sold in 120 countries! But still you want to know what is the benefit of tasteless tomatoes? Each of these 120 countries can add their specific cultural spice mixture, so that people will like it and buy it. I am wondering if the spices for American taste buds differ from German buds …
If you want to read a blog post about Campbell soup: http://manhattanchronicles.com
On Sunday morning we were invited for breakfast in the family’s arched bunker-tunnel-house with innumerable cubic feet of soil on top. We had eggs, incredible tasty tomatoes on tortillas and coffee. After breakfast we walked around the farm, said hi to Daisy the dog in the middle of all the chickens and picked a lot of strawberries and grapes to take home with us.
I am definitely convinced that supporting CSA farms is a good thing!