We have several major benchmarks during the farm season and one of them is our CSA orientation. It marks the start of the CSA and gives subscribers a chance to spend some time with the farmers for an evening at Persephone Farm. And once again, on Wednesday evening, the weather goddess smiled and we oriented and managed to stay dry.

Over a dozen years of these gatherings we have never been rained out. Oh, it rained pretty much all day Wednesday, with predictions of more of the same into the night, but Rebecca refused to consider a Plan B if the heavens were still weeping when the orientation began.

And lo, the rain stopped and the clouds blew away two hours before it all began. The Irish are just lucky that way, I guess.

CSA Orientation

CSA orientation

We always urge our CSA subscribers to show up for this initial session, whatever the weather, and there are a couple of reasons why. Cohesion is a big one. Louisa gets to explain, in exacting detail, our pickup procedure–“Okay, Bainbridge subscribers over here, Indianola subscribers over there, I’m the Agate Pass bridge. When you pick up your box, do not cross this bridge…”

Try as we might, however, some folks just don’t quite get it and walk off with someone else’s bag of veggies. Inevitably, that leads to an anguished–or angry–call that night or the next day from the subscriber whose lettuce and radiccio went to the wrong home. Such mistakes are bound to happen over a long season, but it helps to walk the newbies through the process.

Just as important, we get to meet our new subscribers face-to-face, usually with their kids in tow. During the season, some of our subscribers pick up when we’re not around and we never do get to spend much time together. The orientation party at the farm gives everyone a chance to bond a bit. One of the attractive things about the CSA model is that it means we are all in the same boat, co-investors in the year’s crop, farmers and subscribers alike. That mutual ownership gets reinforced at the orientation, making the subscribers’ connection to the farm more than  just an annual check and a brief weekly dash from the car to the pickup box.

CSA Orientation

Rebecca greets this year's subscribers

We have written before about the beauty and the economics of the CSA model (take a look at April’s “The Real Farmville”.) Wednesday night, we saw it in action, with packs of kids racing from the chickens to the lambs to the turkeys, families roaming through the gardens inspecting the progress of the chard and everyone munching spanikopita made with spinach we picked a couple of hours earlier. Our friend and neighbor, Judith Weinstock, showed off her wonderful bread and cheese, which she makes right across the road from the farm. Hard to beat that for eating local.

CSA Orientation food table

Judith and her bread

Like our garlic harvest party in July, and the cider pressing in October, the CSA orientation has become a community event, with the farm as its nexis. Sometimes it seems that food, and the politics of food, have gotten tangled up in so much posturing, finger-pointing and anger that it is tough to sort out what really matters in the whole process. But events like the CSA gathering bring things back into focus. For a little while, we get to put aside the rest of it and just savor the taste of a freshly picked raw turnip. What could be more essential than that?

Rain or no, we would have held our annual convocation anyway, and if it did rain perhaps it would have given everyone who showed up this year a better sense of what farming is really like. Harvesting in shorts and tank tops in July is all well and good–lord are we ready for it–but the reality of the farm is that you take what is given to you. That means picking lettuce in a downpour or tasting turnips when turnips are what are getting harvested this week.

When your farmer’s name is Rebecca Slattery, at least you have the promise of that Irish luck to make sure it will all work out for the best.

(And many thanks to Leslie Newman, ace techie, photographer and subscriber, for the pictures.)