I am not a farmer. I tried to be one once, and I failed. But that’s okay, because I found a way to be a pretend farmer.
My passion for -cide free food started small, just as small as the little baby inside me that inspired it. I was struck for the first time that she was what I ate, and although our budget was equally tiny, I bought organic whenever I could. More children came, and through the years, I set aside more in our food budget for good, clean food. Eventually, when we moved to the Houston area, I joined an organic food co-op. As wonderful as that was, I grew tired of the produce from my organic co-op rotting just a few days after I brought it home. I was paying premium prices for food that I knew had been grown without pesticides, but I was a little disturbed seeing that most of it came from California, not Texas. I was sure that some of it had been sitting in cold storage for a while because I was able to order just about any vegetable I wanted, in any season I wanted.
My solution? I’d grow my own. I’d be my own farmer in the midst of suburbia, in my patch of lawn surrounded by other lawns treated with who-knows-what. I could read and follow tables, at least. I convinced my hunky husband to cart loads of vegetable mix into my small plot. I dug, I planted, I watered, I mulched. The outcome? ‘Garden’ really was too generous an appellation. This farmer here managed to grow just three big tomatoes, a modest amount of jalapenos, exacty one cantaloupe, and a handful of surprise green beans in December. It was cute, but it was not a garden. It certainly could never supply my family of 7 with more than a bowl of salsa every three weeks. Discouraged, I let my miserable little patch lie fallow.
I was back to buying grocery store organic vegetables, without thought to the season. My image of myself bringing forth abundance from the earth, dashed. Then, last spring, I arrived with a friend at our favorite park for a playdate and found a farmer, and truly a new way of eating, instead. She was handing over 1/2 bushel baskets of overflowing greens and cartons of fresh chicken eggs to smiling customers. She was a real farmer, who could grow everything I couldn’t. I practically ran my friend over, trying to get to her first. There was one membership spot left in her CSA, (short for Community Supported Agriculture) a partnership of sorts between farmer and consumer. I reluctantly deferred to my friend, but a few days later, she had plans for her own garden (sucker!) and said that I could have the spot. Yippee! And that is how I became a pretend farmer. Weekly, I bring home a basket full of fresh, locally grown vegetables that have been cut just hours before only miles from my house. I pay my farmer in advance of the season, so that when the harvest comes, I can stand in my kitchen and wonder what to do with so many radishes, just like real farmers do. I’m sure that qualifies.
Pretending, by the way, isn’t a bad thing. Who hasn’t pretended to pound the keys of a make-believe piano, just to be able to participate in a beautiful song? Organic farming, I’m learning, is more of an art than a science. It brings me great joy to be on this end of farming, even if it’s just finding delicious ways to turn the bounty into dinner.