Where does our extra produce go?

In these posts, I usually write about the CSA program, the primary method of distributing our fresh produce, but our donation program is an important part of our annual agenda, and the Brandeis Farmer’s club is proud to be able to give back to our community and to fill the fresh food gap that many in the Boston-metro area experience.

Last Wednesday, we were lucky that our garden was productive enough to allow us to make a donation to the Somerville Come to the Table Community Meal. The meal, at which 2017 summer manager Nina Sayles often volunteers, happens once a month, year round, and is free to anybody. The Community Meal is just one of many efforts to reduce the burden of food insecurity in Somerville, MA. Throughout the winter, much of the food is canned or leftover from area cafeterias, but the summer meals are special, because they are all cooked from scratch, relying on local farmers to be able to provide fresh vegetables for salads and sides. Any extra food that is donated gets displayed in a room that acts as a food pantry for the night, and visitors can fill shopping bags with whatever they need. The Brandeis donation, which supplemented the meal and pantry offerings, included 10 heads of lettuce, half a pound of kale, and containers full of fresh herbs.

Our donations and our CSA don’t take away from each other, they actually go hand in hand. Our CSA pickups happen weekly, but that doesn’t mean that all of our produce is in peak form every Monday morning. In some cases, the produce that we choose to donate is surplus that just can’t wait another week for the next CSA. Take bok choy for example–during last week’s CSA, we handed out a healthy portion of bok choy to all of our shareholders. The plants left in the ground, however, would not last until this week, to be distributed in the next share. Rather, the intense heat would cause the plants to bolt, producing a long flower stalks, as part of the plants’ efforts to reproduce, and the plant would stop focusing its energy on producing healthy, new leaves.

Peas and beans are two examples of crops which should be harvested between share distributions. Pea pods and string beans mature very quickly, within 3-4 days during their peak season, and our shareholders benefit when we harvest mid week. Everything we grow thinks it exists for the sole purpose of reproduction, not our satisfaction. If a pea plant is full of mature pods, it thinks it has done its job–eventually the pods would fall and the peas or beans, their seeds, would germinate to grow the next generation–and will slow production of new pods. Therefore, when we continuously harvest the peas, the plant speeds up production of new peas to combat the disappearance of its precious seeds.

At the Brandeis Rooftop Farm, we look forward to continuing to please our CSA customers as well as make donations, for the community’s benefit and ours.

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