“air-n-tuh ahn-tile” – harvest share.

THIS POST IS FROM 3 WEEKS AGO. I HAVE NOW RECEIVED THREE CSA BOXES, AND I HAVE SO MANY RADISHES I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO. PLEASE SEND HELP.

First off, Min Song did eventually show up. She had been out of town (although she was home to accept the package…) and was super embarrassed about the number of signs advertising her name around the dorm. Should have left the package with a friend. Seems nice, though.

In other exciting news, I joined a CSA, and today was the first pickup! It was very disorganized (why, oh why, can’t the people with the great agriculture-and-community schemes and the people with the organization skills ever be the same people? or at least be friends?), but eventually I did wind up with veggies.

The pickup location is a refreshing return to the Teehaus, the “clubhouse cafe” (de facto squat) that Nathan and I stayed in once upon a time in Berlin. Mostly it’s just an empty space in the basement of an apartment building, with some chairs scattered around and a makeshift bar in the corner, plus a bunch of spray-painted and plastered-up messages about taking a stand against racism/sexism/gentrification/what have you. In short, a very good place to get to hang out, especially now that I live in communion with squirrels and BMW-driving pensioners.

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This is the bar of the cafe. In the back, you can see someone in the kitchen where they cook Vokü (although here it’s called not “The People’s Kitchen,” but KüFa, “Kitchen for Everyone.”)

The CSAs I’m familiar with work like this: you sign up, pay up, and then go every week to pick up your veggies, which are usually boxed and waiting for you. But it works quite differently around here, a fact that is reflected even in the respective names of this business model. Here, the agriculture isn’t community supported, but solidary (Google says that’s a word, but spell check says it’s not. I’ve never seen it before but can’t think of an alternative. In any case, solidarisch). 

When we showed up today (actually about an hour afterwards, because the directors forgot what time they’d said to be there), we were split up into groups of four shares (so between 4-8 households per group). The democratically-elected leader of the group collects payment from each member each month and transfers the group total to the CSA account (this step seems completely unnecessary to me, but I’m not queen of the world yet, so there’s not much I can do), and each group receives their veggies each week in one big box, which they have to divvy out amongst themselves according to a worksheet that’s made according to that week’s harvest. Each week, one group is responsible for being there to help set up when the veggies arrive, and one group is responsible for cleaning up at the end. You’re also supposed to make a group commitment to spend X hours at the farm helping out each month. I signed a contract promising “0 ‘zero’ hours” of help.

The American in me says “Excuse me, I am a free and independent human, and I do not take orders from someone who is rendering a service for which I have already paid.” But if you just pay for the things you want and then use them, you’re not going to have a very interesting life. So while I would have liked to know the score up front (I chose this CSA partly because I wasn’t sure I could commit to the requirements of the others I looked at), I’m optimistic about this little project. I’ll let you know.

Anyway. What about the goods?

  • watercress
  • Loveage (aka Maggi weed in German because apparently it imparts a flavor similar to that of Maggi. Oh, the borscht  I shall make….)
  • radishes
  • deer tongue lettuce
  • chives (If someone knows what to do with chives other than baked potatoes and potato soup and mashed potatoes, PLEASE tell me)
  • sage
  • a bajillion pounds of spinach

 

In the weeks since I wrote this, the CSA has continued to be a disorganized mess, but since vegetables continue to be delicious, I guess we’ll keep doing business.

 

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