Work-shares and rustic dipping bread

Week 3.  My first full day with our Wednesday CSA members.  After Plymouth Local Foods work in the morning, I arrive at the farm at 11:59.  Jen and Dave are crawling through the chard bed, talking, laughing, and bunching chard.  Liz – our going-on-five-years-needs-no-guidance-and-gets-it-done work-share volunteer and Cabot cheese connection is busy washing broccoli while Deanne – Dave’s cousin and also work-share volunteer – collects the last of the fennel.  I throw my bag in the barn as as I’m catching up with Dave my parents arrive.  They’re here for their first work-share day.  At 67 and 70 I’m proud to see them.

So we get busy right away.  We pull some chairs and crates up to the table and sit down to eat.  We talk about how hot the day is as we watch Dave and Jen, on their knees, bent over, picking lovely leaves of chard.  We ask what one another has brought for lunch.  Tuna for mom and dad, curry for me.  Ahhh… the shade is lovely and there’s a nice breeze.  My parents are thinking how nice this is.  Why hadn’t they done this in past years?  Finally the rest of the crew join us – late of course! – for lunch.  We laugh, we talk, we eat, we share some peas from the field along with farmers’ market stories and discuss the challenges of finding good help.  And just as my parents are considering offering to pay for this work-share opportunity, Dave announces that lunch is complete.  The fun is over.

My Dad and I are spared for the next 45 minutes.  While my Mom joins the chard-bunching crew, he and I sink our hands into the lovely refreshing cold water (no longer biting cold and hateful), perk up some escarole, and double-wash the bins of swiss chard as they arrive.  But nothing good lasts forever.

Phase 3 of our day has most of the crew, including Mom, off to the Soule field to pick peas in the burning hot sun and dishwasher like humidity.  I figure Dad and I will go easy, so I grab two diamond hoes and we head off to weed the eggplants.  After a we’re 3/4 of the way through 3 rows and I’m ready to pass out,  it strikes me that my Dad is 70, it’s like 132 degrees out, and maybe this isn’t such a great idea after all.   It’s also nearing 3:00 – when the first CSA members arrive – so time is running short.   Dad heads off to set up tables and I finish the 3 rows.

When I’m done, I realize there are only 12 minutes to go.  Dave and crew are nowhere to be seen and there are about 32 coolers full of lettuce and pac choi along with multiple bread trays spread out with broccoli, swiss chard, and fennel.  The race is on.  I grab two cooler and run (yes Dave… I was running!) mid-way across the field to meet my Dad, tell him where to lay things out, and race back to the barn.  I do this another 4 or 5 times and then I hear it.  The doors of the cars that have been slowly creeping up to the farm and parking to wait begin to open.  Individuals, couples, and families step out of their cars and head through the gate.  It’s 3:00.

I try to wipe some dirt from my hands, grab the clipboard and introduce myself to the first group of 6 or 7 people.  I check them off the list one by one as they look eagerly to the board to see what will fill their baskets today.  Everyone seems happy and I’m somehow surprised to see that they aren’t covered in dirt and sweat like myself.

Dave and crew arrive shortly thereafter and help with the other 79 coolers and after my parents pack up their hard-earned pay, I settle in to the day.  So many familiar faces!  And I remember so many names from last year.  There are 6 month old children that were just a big belly the last time I saw them.  The kids have all grown several inches.  CSA members greet me and one another, kids run to the field to pick peas, and dear Sue Lindsay breaks open her wonderful rustic dipping bread from Artisan Kitchen, and we sit and watch it all happen.

Beth displays her basket full of peas, greens and herbs.
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