My sister sent me my birthday presents a little early last week, and among them was a copy of this book, The Dirty Life, by Kristin Kimball.
But, no. The other night, I was totally exhausted after playing the second round of Hide and Go Poop with Colden and not sleeping at all the night before, and right after dinner, I put on my jammies and went to bed, feeling too tired to lift a limb.
My fingers, however, worked, and I decided to start reading the book from my sister.
It was totally NOT what I expected. Yes, she was from Manhattan, but this book wasn't just about ditching city life for country life. Kristin's husband, Mark, has a vision: about food, about farming, and about community. These are not people who came into farming with a load of money. But they came into it with a set of core beliefs, and those beliefs have led them to create the first total-diet CSA.
In case you're not sure what a CSA is, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It's the idea that a group of people will "subscribe" to a small farm and pay them for a share of whatever that farm produces on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis. Most CSAs provide vegetables, and sometimes meat, but Essex Farm produces its own flour, grains, three kinds of meat, over fifty kinds of vegetables, eggs, milk, and even soap!
After reading three chapters, I went to her website and looked up the CSA that she and Mark run out of Essex Farm. I checked the cost, and what at first seemed to be unaffordable turned out to be exactly what we spend per month on groceries.
So, I posed the question to Tom: what if we stopped going to the grocery store and instead lived off of whatever we got from this CSA? No more prepared foods. No more buying a pack of English muffins when we want a breakfast sandwich - I'd make our own with the flour. We'd make our own bread with their flours, too.
Once I showed Tom what we were spending every month on groceries and showed him what Essex Farm has to offer in terms of a total diet, he didn't need much convincing.
There's another reason why I'm so excited about the possibility of joining this CSA. Every time I turn around lately, I'm hearing about pesticides that are causing bees to die off; vegetables that have been genetically altered with unknown consequences; factory farming practices that are wreaking havoc with antibiotic resistant bacteria; outbreaks of e.Coli from vegetables, meats, eggs, and processed foods. It's not just that I'm being paranoid - these things are real. In this industrialized society, we just don't know where our food is coming from anymore. We even went so far this year as to buy non-GMO seeds for our own gardens, concerned about what we were growing ourselves.
With a small CSA like this one, we know exactly where our food is coming from. And we know who is growing it. We know how they are growing it, and we know that they aren't using commercial pesticides, fertilizers, and GMO seeds.
I'm wondering what our friends and family are going to say when they hear about this crazy plan. No more trips to the grocery store? Well, yes, we'll still need dog food and toilet paper and toothpaste, so yes, we will still be going somewhere to purchase those things. But what this means for us is a whole new layer of things to do in the kitchen.
Our plan, if they have a spot in the CSA for us this year, is to go to Essex Farm every Friday for the pick ups. Bring home everything we get, and then spend Saturday and part of Sunday cooking for the week, and freeze our meals ahead of time. Sundays will probably be spent baking everything we need for the week - muffins, breads, cookies, etc. I'll probably have to invest in a few more items of bakeware.We'll start making our own cheese and butter.
But the payoff? Locally grown, totally organic food, including meats. Sure, it'll take a little more time, and yes, it will cost more in terms of time. But for us, this is going to be a small step towards a life that will be happier and healthier for everyone.
And who knows? Maybe I'll start nibbling on some of that locally raised grass fed beef this summer...