I used to think that harvest season here in Southeast Minnesota took place only in the fall, with combines, trucks, soybeans, and corn jamming the back roads. How silly of me.
Last winter my wife and I purchased, for $500, a share of a community supported agriculture farm. In CSAs, farmers sell shares, and in return the shareholders receive a portion of the produce.
A man in his 40s who walked away from a marketing career in L.A. owns our CSA. Everybody calls him Farmer John. His farm is located 4 miles north of town in a quiet valley. We go to the farm on Thursday nights to pick up our organic veggies; the short trip has become a highlight of our week.
In early June we received greens: arugula, cress, mizzuna mustard greens, kale, tat soi, chard. Plus, there were French breakfast radishes, an heirloom variety. At Farmer John's suggestion, we made radish sandwiches: bread, a little butter, and thinly sliced radishes lightly sprinkled with sea salt. Brilliant!
By mid-July, the greens had given way to carrots, broccoli, beans, summer squash, zucchini squash, cucumbers, three varieties of cabbage, collard greens, and beets. We learned that beets and sweet potatoes roasted together are divine; we called them “beets and sweets.”
Now in the fall, we have received sweet corn, six varieties of potatoes, chili peppers, sweet peppers, eggplant, and more than 30 varieties of tomatoes. With the cool overnight temperatures, the greens have returned!
The colors have amazed me: orange carrots — and yellow and purple ones, too; red tomatoes — plus orange, yellow, and every shade in between; red, yellow, white onions — and again, purple; red beets, gold beets — and an Italian heirloom beet named chioggia that when sliced reveals a bulls-eye pattern.
The shapes were a surprise, too. Long, tube-shaped zucchini — and big round ones, too. Oblong, fat eggplants — and long, thin, curly ones!
But the taste of the vegetables has been the biggest revelation. The flavors are fresh, complex, and wonderful.
It seems to me that Farmer John's job is a lot like your work as a religious meeting planner. He has vegetables. You have meetings. Like his vegetables, the products of your toil come in sensational colors and sizes. Like Farmer John to his shareholders, your efforts change, enliven, and enrich the lives of your attendees. They are grateful.
And would you believe it — before this summer, I hated vegetables.