I figure by the time I finish up deliveries for this year’s CSA members, I will have made over twelve hundred deliveries total in the four years I have been involved in Community Supported Agriculture. That’s not much for the big farms, who might deliver that many shares over the course of a few weeks, but for a one-woman operation, it’s something to be proud of.
(Well, OK, it’s something I am proud of.)
Overall, I’d say it has been a success, though there have been a number of failures along the way. Weed control has not always been adequate, as my busy schedule and sometimes lack of working equipment have gotten in the way.
Too, there have been some crops that have almost invariably been failures at least half the time I’ve done this. Usually it has been squash and cucumber family members. While this year’s cuke harvest was a record for me, there have been a couple years where I could not manage to beat back the munching hordes of disease-carrying beetles.
Melons, too, have been problematic for the same reason, and though I was able to deliver them two out of the four years, some of my best melons have been volunteers–usually the big Moon & Stars heirlooms.
Winter squash has almost always been a problem in that garden space. I”ve not been able to control those crafty squash bugs who are able to sniff out the barely-sprouted seeds and put an end to my dreams of a basement full of gold-and-green good keepers (not to mention my dreams of actually delivering squash).
I’ve had one year, I think, where I was actually able to deliver a whole. sound spaghetti squash to every member. I should say that was the year I had twenty members, so that’s something. But more often than not, I’ve had to seek out other, non-sustainable squash farmers and pony up some cash if I wanted to deliver. And yes, I do tell my members what they’re getting, and whence it came.
The irony of the squash battle is that a couple of these years, I actually have gotten some squash out of the garden, and they’ve been huge. It seems the weirdest, biggest, most unlikely-to-come-to-full-ripeness-in-this-climate varieties I choose almost always give me a fruit.
Three years ago, I had two such monsters–a Tennessee Sweet Potato squash and a Pink Banana squash. The Tennessee Sweet Potato was so big, it could’ve been hollowed out for a baby’s bassinet. The Pink Banana was a two-foot-long phallic thing a very bright shade of the color its name implies.
This year, out of all the winter squash I planted and fretted over, I’ve got one huge-and-still-growing Neck Pumpkin out in the gardens.
This is actually the variety of squash used for the canned pumpkin you get at the grocery store. It has a very long neck filled with sweet orange flesh and a small bulb at the end wherein the seed cavity resides–kind of like someone put a butternut squash on a rack and stretched it.
The thing is over two feet long already, approaching ten pounds, and it’s not full sized yet. Heck, by the time it gets there, I could practically portion out a big hunk to each of my ten members and still have a meal for myself (I won’t be doing that–too many risks with “processing”). I didn’t even know it was there until today, having given up on the possibility of anything making it out of the squash bug hoe-down alive.
I’ve been working on my lists of the various veggies and varieties that, after these four years of trying to grow everything under the sun, I will actually grow for myself next year, in my own home gardens.
I guess from what I’ve learned, my best bet might be to grow the biggest and most obscure winter squash varieties I can find. If you know about a variety where one squash can feed a family for the whole winter, let me know, and I’ll try my luck with that.
By the way, in my travels through cyberpsace, I found a great page of all kinds of heirloom winter squash images at the Kemper Center for Home Gardening through the Missouri Botanical gardens. If you like to look at pictures of big beautiful winter squash as much as I do, click here.
Why did that sound vaguely prurient?