Wednesday, July 23, 2008
When I moved to Back of the Yards from the North Side four years ago, one of the things I thought I would miss the most was biking home with my weekly summer box of veggies from a CSA (community supported agriculture) share.
Not any more. The photo above shows you what was inside the box I biked home with today. Growing Home's urban farm at 58th and Wood is the pickup point for their CSA share program, and it's an easy bike ride from my house. A few weeks ago, I walked over with three or four of my young neighbors, who got a complete tour from Tyra Rodgers, who manages the site. They learned how hoop houses control temperature so you can grow cold-tolerant vegetables through most of even a Chicago winter, how soaker hoses work and how you can keep a garden healthy without pesticide and artificial fertilizer, among other things.
Today, they couldn't come with, but I got to hear from Tyra how the entire Growing Home staff went to visit Charlie Trotter's and see what he does with the vegetables they grow. They got a full kitchen tour and the opportunity to sample a seven-course meal. "It was really, really amazing," he said. "A once in a lifetime experience." Before the event he was reluctant to go because he's a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy and this event required a coat and tie. But afterwards, "it was worth it." Now he's hoping the staff at Trotter's will come down to the farm so he can give them a tour, too.
Tyra also told me he's been making good friends with the neighbors whose houses surround the farm. One gentleman, who let them use his hose before they had their own water supply, is a fellow gardener with a back lot full of watermelon, greens and other goodies. His grandchildren got to pick a few tomatoes and cucumbers as a thank you for the early support.
When I got home with my box one of the girls who came last time and two of her friends all wanted to see what was inside. "Carrots!" one exclaimed joyfully. Plus, the first tomatoes of the season, small plum tomatoes we all plopped into our mouths right away. Beets, too, which these little guys and gals like. Earlier this season I went up and down the block making people try asparagus in lemon butter with a little salt. There was a two-year-old who kept coming back for more.
Today, as we were snacking on tomatoes and carrots, one of my older neighbors went by and looked over with interest. When I explained how a share works--pay up front and get veggies all summer--and how two or more people could go in on a box together to make it easier to front the cash, she looked interested. This summer I'm splitting a share with a friend out by Midway airport, but maybe next year four or five of us could split a share here on the block.