On the CSA, part two

First pickles of the year:  Leek and garlic scapes, with chive blossoms for the cute factor

SO:  I said in a previous post that I have been running a small CSA-type scheme for unloading my veggies and other farm goods onto gullible friends, for money.  Let me give you a couple of tips on how I got here.

One of the first rules of manufacture is that increased production is more economical if you don’t need to retool and resupply.  If you can add another shift on your existing machines, then whammo, you can produce more widgets.  What does this mean for me?  Not that I sleep less due to a second shift, but rather that making six loaves of bread takes only a bit more time than making two.  Likewise, canning more pints of jam, planting more garden beds, etc.:  if I have the jars, if I have the garden beds, then canning more or succession planting the garden does not take me significantly more time.  I am already making the kitchen sticky with the jam, and I have already built those garden beds, and I have the seeds waiting.

In other words, I am doing it already, whatever “It” is:  making milk products, baking, gardening, fermenting, canning.  I have added nothing new.

The other thing that is required is a shift of mind.  I needed to stop thinking everything I made or grew was precious.  I needed to change my relationship with that which I produced.  Scarcity produces value, you see, so…if there is no scarcity, one’s perceived value of all that mache or arugula is lessened.  It helps matters I suppose that my spoiled and fussy family is not in love with anything I make or grow (it’s the downside of abundance, you see) with the possible exception of asparagus or cajeta (goat-milk caramel).  I doubt I would ever be able to grow enough spears or boil off enough milk to satisfy the gang here.

The counter to the less-precious stance is that all the best goes to us.  There are tons of things I do not share!  I had read in Nina Planck’s Real Food years ago that her truck farmer parents would reserve all the best produce for their customers, and I vowed never to do that to my own family.  Who is this for?  My family, or my bank account?  Fortunately, I have a real job that takes care of my bank account’s balance, so family production remains top priority.

Likewise, all this stepping up of production takes time.  I shouldn’t be so flip with my “six loaves is as easy as two” if those to whom I am speaking have never baked a successful loaf of bread, or have brown thumbs, or find the process of canning intimidating.  Listen:  I have been at this for a while now…I am not fresh on the farm, or new at anything except maybe milking.  There’s been a lot of hours logged, in other words.  A lot of rock-hard loaves of bread, unsealed jars, and failed crops.  Learning experiences all, is all I can say.  Failure has its uses.

If there’s something you are good at producing, then you should certainly try to share it, or even sell it!  Fortunately for you Michiganders, the Cottage Industry bill is now law, and you can sell your soaps or granola, jams or baked goods…anything that can sit on a counter can be sold by you at a farmer’s market (there are requirements, of course).  You can also home-process and sell your own chickens, turkeys and other poultry, and legally sell your own honey and maple syrup.  Other states are getting wise too:  check with your state’s Department of Agriculture for more information.

Two weeks of refrigeration and then they’re edible

7 responses to “On the CSA, part two

  1. Your pickles look fabulous! I don’t know when I’ll have enough garlic scapes to pickle any – they get eaten up pretty fast around here. No sign of them yet, though.

    I had to lie down after thinking about all you do.

  2. Are you in with Lance Armstrong? Girl, you must be doping!
    So impressed.
    And the pickles are cute.

  3. Good to have enough to generate extra. I’m just now trying to get some to the food bank — I’d love to do CSA production, but that’s a few other people’s yards away, I’m afraid. Still, inspiring.

  4. Thanks for putting the link up for the cottage law. I’m from Michigan and didn’t even realize it was out there. Great looking pickles they are far prettier than anything I have done yet 🙂

  5. I can totally see how your eating habits make sharing the bounty work for you–you get to make/grow wilder stuff, and your customers appreciate it more than your tamer eaters at home.

    Here, I’m the lesser adventurous of the eaters in the house, so I tend to stick to basics as far as pantry items go. We experiment, but not with larger quantities. I LOVE making large batches of bread though, there’s not much more relaxing than shaping 20 loaves… don’t get to do that as much anymore.

  6. That cottage industry law is my project for this year. An open letter to Cuomo is in the works.

  7. Bev and CC: I do sound kind of manic, don’t I? Sigh. I wish that were the case because I could get even MORE accomplished…! But no, it’s really just like cooking for more people. Upping the scale. And yeah, CC, the only doping I do is the relaxing kind. It’s almost rose season after all.

    Stef, loving the idea that you decided to up your bee production. Eric is a sensible guy, reminding you about vacation money. Doesn’t it gall you now seeing all the UNPLANTED ground in your neighborhood? Waste of resources!

    Erin, well, not everything is picture-perfect around here, believe me. But yeah, check out the new law, there might be something in it for you. And as consumers of course there sure is.

    Sara, well at least you know you can do 20 loaves. That’s all it is, really, this idea that a little more won’t hurt you (overmuch). And yeah, I push the food/texture/taste envelope around here. Someone has to.

    Glad to hear you’re swinging for advocacy, Peter. I loved your latest article, such the food-mad MacGyver you are.

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