At 9:25 on Saturday morning I found myself sitting on the stone wall of the Community Garden at 2nd Place and Smith Street, drowsily sipping a cup of coffee. Five minutes later a large white truck pulled up across the street, and a man wearing an orange baseball cap called out “Good morning!” from the driver’s seat. It was time to wake up. My shift at the Carroll Gardens CSA had officially begun.
My CSA requests that all members volunteer for one distribution shift during the season. This past Saturday was my turn. The morning began with unlocking the garden and transferring last week’s empty crates to the truck. I learned the basics of how to sign in the members while the rest of the volunteers carried heaping crates of produce off the truck. (I’m not lazy, I swear. I just have a bad back!) After setting up a tent to shade the veggies, we were ready for business.
As members started strolling into the garden around 10 am, it immediately became clear that everyone (unsurprisingly) loves their fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers from Garden of Eve.
It was also obvious that many of the members are sick of zucchini, which has been in season throughout the month of July. This week everyone could take six of them. For some people, that may have been six too many.
Even though I didn’t personally know anyone who came to pick up their food, it was fun to feel like part of the same community, even for just two hours. Together we shared in the excitement of the season’s first sweet corn and peppers, and delighted in this week’s batch of colorful marigolds.
“Start at this table and take three cucumbers, two peppers, two onions, and four ears of corn. Cherries and peaches are straight ahead, then come to the tent for more greens,” I repeated somewhat endlessly. All I needed was a microphone and a brightly-colored umbrella, and my dreams of becoming a tour guide would have been fulfilled.
I asked some of my fellow volunteers what made them join our CSA. Most liked the idea of receiving local, organic produce for both health and environmental reasons. Others spoke of the creative aspect that the CSA shipments inspire through their mystery contents:
“The CSA provokes me to make something good out of ingredients I’m not familiar with, such as such as pea shoots or kohlrabi,” ” said volunteer Jonathan Taylor. Suzy Pasette from Fort Greene also cited the lack of easily accessible, good supermarkets as one of her reasons for joining.
By noon we were out of zucchini but swimming in sweet corn. It must be very difficult for the farmers to figure out the exact amount of food for each week’s distribution. I’m going to stick to my strategy of arriving within the first hour, just to be sure I get a little bit of everything.
Locking up the garden and going our separate ways at the end of the shift felt somewhat bittersweet. Now that we understood the process, it was time to leave. A new group would have to learn it all again next week. Good luck to the next team of volunteers!