This year, our family joined a Community Supported Agriculture or C.S.A. farm for the first time. At Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, folks who participate in the share program venture to 35 acres of sprawling farmland. Every a week shareholders arrive with a range of gloves and shears, clogs, muck boots, wide-brimmed hats, and baseball caps to harvest their bounty. Each week, the fruits, vegetables, and flowers ripe for picking vary based on the time of the season and they’re listed for the harvesters on large signs entering the fields. Row crops are marked signs indicating what it is, its variety, guidance on how to pick it, and the quantity allocated (read: allowed) for each shareholder. There’s no gendarme, it’s all on the honor system.
And so, there I am in my knee-high rain with a reusable bag on my shoulder, pocket knife in hand, sorting through tall branching weeds for sprouted okra. Or, I’m observing the bright assortment of colors among the cherry tomatoes delicately grasping for them through my thick, clunky garden gloves. Or, I’m pulling a carrot out of the ground. Or, I’ve just tripped over a potato.
We can’t all make all the difference, but we can all make a little difference and that can go a long way.
My green thumb or lack thereof (read: lack thereof) is taken care of by the devoted farmers committed to this land. I merely get to the relish in their successes, marvel at their incredible ability to create food out of dirt, and enjoy the luxury of putting beautiful, nutrient-rich, organic food on my plate and tasting it in its freshest form.
According to Quail Hill’s website: “A central part of our mission at Quail Hill is to educate the public concerning such issues as soil health, our seed supply, food security, and sustainable, organic farming practices. Connecting people with land in this way builds a community that will appreciate and support the stability, integrity, and beauty of the bioregion.”
The summer share—which runs from June through November—has made feel connected to the landscape. It’s the one I’ve grown up in, but knowing how it can feed me and my family, care for us in this way when people care for it… it suddenly feels so important to do our part and help empower these farmers to make this land do what it does best.
One of the original C.S.A. farms in the U.S., the land at Quail Hill was donated to the Peconic Land Trust by Deborah Ann Light and has grown in size since it was established in 1990. In a place like Amagansett, where the value of land and developable real estate are so intertwined, efforts to conserve our farming history and love of land and nature are ever more important, even moral.
Picking my own vegetables has been full of surprises. Like, I didn’t know that’s how you get okra. I didn’t know there were so many color variations in tomatoes and potatoes. Sometimes an item is exactly how it looks in the store, other times it’s smaller or bigger, each is terribly unique. The process has given me a newfound appreciation for the food on my plate and the things that I consume.
Once my bounty is harvested, I grab a random assortment of herbs from Quail Hill’s vast herb garden. At home, once I’ve rinsed everything in vinegar and water, I slice and combine vegetables and herbs for different flavor profiles and roast like mad. Or, I’ll use the food processor to make up a hummus or dip. Or, I’ll throw everything into a pot to stew. Or, maybe I’ll throw it on a pasta. Andrew pickles the rest. With food so fresh, I’ve found it’s essential to immediately store it properly and that roasting or cooking it extends the shelf life as well as the likelihood of the foods ending up in a meal.
As we approach autumn, I’m already looking forward to doing this again next year. There’s a winter share too that runs from November through March I’ll most certainly be looking into as well.
Regional, organic, seasonal, sustainable—it was the acronym of my school growing up where I was lucky enough to eat food from Quail Hill every day. I didn’t quite appreciate the privilege that was then, but a summer share is such an accessible opportunity to choose produce made organically and sustainably and to support local farmers and good working conditions. We can’t all make all the difference, but we can all make a little difference and that can go a long way.
Would you consider joining your local farm or C.S.A.? For the time-crunched, most farms will box the bounty for you and in cases, even deliver it.