Sweetness to the Soul, Health to the Body

We are proud members of One Straw Farm, a CSA in Baltimore County.  (The owners, Joan and Drew Norman, were featured in Martha Stewart Living earlier this spring, much to our delight.)  Every week for half the year, we split a share of organic vegetables with my parents.  We pay less than ten dollars each for several bags stuffed with fresh produce -- this time of year it's sweet corn, summer squash of all shapes and sizes, baby red potatoes, garlic, watermelon, cucumbers, beets and lots of greens.  The farm is largely responsible for whatever healthy eating habits we have: almost every day I make a salad, throwing in some Amish eggs for protein, for an almost-completely local lunch (the dressing I make from imported oil and vinegar.)  I'm especially a fan of their red cabbage, which puts the dried-out slivers in bagged salad to shame.  Cabbage from One Straw Farm looks like an oil painting and tastes like spicy-sweet heaven.

Last week, when picking up our share, we were told that the farm had been hit hard by a tomato blight that wiped out many thousands of dollars in profit.  The situation was so dire, said the woman who runs our drop site, that if it hadn't been for the CSA customers (who pay up front for the whole season) the owners might have had to sell the farm.

Overwhelmed by gratitude for these people, who risk their financial health so we can have nice dinners, I wrote them an e-mail.  It was brief; I just told them that they were in our prayers, and ended by saying, "It is an honor to be able to support you in some small way.  The work you are doing -- bringing us fresh, healthy, diverse produce -- is the greatest on earth."

(It may sound like an exaggeration, but I swear it's not.  I'm currently reading In Defense of Food, and it makes me angrier and angrier to see how, as a society, we've been tricked into eating substances that are so chemical-laden they can hardly be termed nourishment.  It is such a gift to be able to eat real food.)

I didn't really expect a response -- I know how busy farmers are -- but that very afternoon Joan wrote me back, thanking me for the encouragement.  She said that after a tough morning, she had printed my e-mail and taken it out to the field (how's that for technology?!) where Drew was working.  "I can't thank you enough," she said. "He is smiling again."

Later, Drew wrote me separately:

My morning started with a complaint from a disgruntled customer.  Everywhere I turned, I ran into more headaches. I joke about spending my days putting out fires; as a rule, these fires are easily contained. Other times other times they merge into conflagrations beyond my control. Today I felt like I needed a team of smoke jumpers to rescue me. I believe you may have been that brave soul. Thank you so much for your kind words.

I was so humbled by this exchange.  Humanity is such a mysterious thing.  We can never predict how far the ripples of our words might travel through it.