The highlight of this past week (aside from, you know, working crazy hours and getting back into the swing of grad school) was discovering that I could participate in a CSA on campus, provided by the kind folks at Ward’s Berry Farm. For $20 I picked up a box teeming with poblano peppers, butternut squash, yellow carrots, apples, kale and some basil.
And wouldn’t you know it, auction goers at Sotheby’s “The Art of Farming” also participated in community-supported agriculture. The auction raised more than $100,000 to support local farming and to preserve heirloom vegetables. On the way out, attendees were able to pick up $20 boxes of farm-fresh veggies.
All lovely ideas, although, am I the only one who sees this auction as elitist? The fact that vegetables need to be a cause celebre for rich people says something troubling about the way we eat in America. Vegetables should be seen as something that EVERYONE can eat every day. Is the only way this kind of heirloom agriculture can exist is through high class events like this?
At the other end of the spectrum, we have Stephen Colbert testifying about Americans not wanting to do the work of migrant farmers. So we have small farmers selling their produce to wealthy people, while the rest of the country is only able to afford produce which has been picked by exploited workers without a voice?
As I think further about this, in the next few weeks I plan on seeing how much the produce I get from the CSA would cost in the stores I normally shop at: Whole Foods, Russo’s, etc. I’m curious to see whether I’m saving money or paying a premium to support local agriculture.
Either way, it’s clear CSAs aren’t an ideal solution for everyone. One of the reasons I am doing a CSA box is it’s right there on campus. But many people don’t have that luxury, and certainly can’t spend hours in the car driving to the farm or pick-up spot. Then there’s the issue of choice. I’ve been cooking veggies for years and will hopefully be able to find a use for everything I get in my box. But it’s hard enough get folks who don’t eat enough vegetables to eat them even when they’re chosen to suit their tastes.
Look for CSA updates in the weeks to come — if I can fit them in with school and work!
Yes, this auction is supposed to raise awareness of our hardworking farmers and the wonderful world of veggies out there. And, the proceeds are to help local farmers and food pantries. Still, it does leave me feeling a little queasy inside. Seriously, did a group of wealthy foodies sit in a room and say, “now that anyone can have fresh veggies, what can we do with our money to still feel special?” Maybe that’s just me being cynical, although I was reminded of Jane Black’s diatribe against the heirloom tomato from last August.