Our 100-year-old barn is a favorite spot at Stonebridge, our CSA (Community Supported Agricultural) farm. Each Saturday of the six-month growing season, members come to the barn to weigh, count, and bag their weekly subscription of just picked vegetables. Because we’re a “share the harvest” rather than a market farm, members know they’re getting the best the fields have to offer and they’re excited each week to see what’s waiting in the produce rooms.
But often we have vegetables remaining after Saturday’s pick-up that will easily hold for another week in the cool room rather than go to the chickens. Sometimes we harvest the beginning or end of a crop in quantities too small to fill every share, and every week we pick a few “scratch and dent” veggies like sun-scalded peppers, blemished tomatoes, or misshapen carrots that are still good enough to eat but not perfect enough to be counted. So rather than go straight to the compost pile, these leftover, extra, or cosmetically challenged veggies go on the As You Like table for anyone to take. Too many zucchini? Never! The table is always empty by the end of the day. When I clean up the barn on Sunday morning, I’m always happy to see that even the lowliest vegetables have found a new home.
Our members know the value of real food: they know with a little paring, those vegetables will make a delicious and nutritious meal. Zucchini can be grated and frozen for winter breads; even the ugliest carrots and beets can be juiced. But the AYL table isn’t empty just because people feel they’re getting something for nothing. AYL, I think, is a symbol for our farm as a whole.
Stonebridge is more than just a trendy place to get produce. Our members understand that behind each vegetable are people who have planted and watered and weeded with thoughtful intention to care for each other and the earth. Behind that lies the land and all it offers. We work, we wait, and the land gives again. This philosophy is what we call farmgiving–the boundless and bountiful generosity created by placing our lives alongside the land on which we depend–and in our 19 years as a CSA, this generosity has never failed us.
But from abundance, we also learn thrift. If we waste what the earth so generously provides, we not only fail to appreciate those gifts, we miss our chance to be generous with the earth’s abundance in return. We need to think about what we can do with what we have, whether it’s a few vegetables that could create a delicious dinner, or a whole farm that can raise vegetables for many, many dinners. At Stonebridge, we say, “When the community feeds itself, the land and the people prosper.” When we practice As You Like, we all have an opportunity–and a responsibility–to do our best with what the earth provides.