“I will stay until the wind changes,” says Mary Poppins, with typical aplomb, when the Banks children beg her never to leave. I love this scene in the movie. It’s like saying that when the Holy Spirit calls, she will respond, a detachment that St. Ignatius would applaud. This exchange between Mary Poppins and the children springs to mind whenever I make a decision that surprises me even though it seems right.
“Well, the wind has changed,” I say to myself.
This week begins the summer CSA at Turner Farm, and I will not be there for the first time in nine years. Although the decision to withdraw was implemented rather suddenly, it’s now apparent that it had been evolving over many months. Finally I was able to admit that getting out to the farm – a place I dearly love — to fulfill my work hours and pick up our share seemed more and more of an effort. The wind of my life has changed. The unexpected opportunity to join a different CSA, where the pickup is just a mile away from our home and there is no work requirement, was like the weather vane in Mary Poppins switching from East to West with the blowing of the wind. A clear signal for change.
Even though it’s right, it’s sad to leave the people and the place. But in important ways Turner Farm remains part of me.
I regularly prepare and eat and enjoy vegetables previously unfamiliar to me: swiss chard, kale, collard greens, variations of eggplant, daikon, pac choi, turnips, green garlic and garlic scapes. In the past few years, I’ve even become the voice of experience to new CSA members, suggesting what to do with such seemingly exotic produce. I have seen asparagus, romaine lettuce, broccoli and other everyday vegetables as plants in the ground. Before Turner Farm, I had no idea how they looked, other than in bins in the grocery store.
I am a more grounded person, both literally and figuratively.
The years of harvesting and weeding and planting at the farm, followed by washing, prepping and cooking the produce at home, have bonded me to Earth. At the same time, such ordinary, necessary, body-centered activities became a spiritual practice too. While I often would rather just dine out or pick up dinner, the cache of local vegetables in the refrigerator invites me back to myself. So many times, when Joe and I are standing in the kitchen at 5:00 pm trying to figure out a menu, inspiration comes from the vegetables and herbs. “We’ve got tomatoes and chard and basil, let’s make a frittata.” Or, “We’ve got all these greens, plus those chicken breasts, let’s make a stir fry.” The growing season will continue to frame our meal plans, but I’m not sure how I’ll maintain an actual Earth connection apart from Turner’s work requirement, although volunteers are welcome there any time and I’ll want to visit the farmers, who I treasure as friends. A few herbs (low maintenance) here at home are an option too, and the new CSA offers periodic work days. I’ll see how the wind blows!
My ability even to choose a different CSA is connected with Turner Farm, which was an early pioneer on the Cincinnati-area agriculture scene. I am reaping the benefit of their more recent focus of training new farmers, as their apprentices move on to found and lead other CSAs including the one I’ve just joined.
In the end, what I’ll miss the most is the beauty of Turner Farm itself, symbolized for me by the bunch of cut flowers that is included with the weekly share. Flowers are prominent at the farm. They are cultivated in the front field, and you can even pay to join a flower CSA to receive a certain number of you-pick bouquets. Vases or jars of flowers are a common sight around the farm, on the counter in the shed, in the restroom by the sink, a decorative detail that always touched me in its simplicity. At weekly pickup, the ritual of selecting the stems out of the white buckets they were gathered in — peonies, daisies, daylilies, zinnias, coreopsis, cosmos, gladiolas, sunflowers — then arranging them as soon as I got home, truly became my favorite aspect of the CSA.The colorful vase somehow linked home life with natural beauty, a quiet but eloquent evocation that ultimately they are one.