CSA Farmers: High Hopes and Radiant Smiles

It was spring. We had our first CSA garden planted, our greenhouses and fields flourishing, and our vegetable distribution shed ready. Now all we needed were some friendly CSA members ready to buy our vegetables in order for our CSA farm dream to come true. We had our hopes high, and our smiles radiating on our faces.

We were at our very first CSA Fair.

A CSA fair, in case you don't know, is a whole roomful of high-hoped, radiantly smiling farmers, representing many different farms, ready to answer any and every question a potentially interested person might have about any and every aspect of Community Supported Agriculture gardens. Each farm has its own table, with beautiful pictures of the farms and the farming life, along with brochures, pamphlets, and maybe even a delicious sample of food from that very farm.

At least, that is what we two hopeful, radiant, young farmers thought a CSA Fair was. True, there were many other hopeful, radiant farmers at our first Fair, and there were many interested persons, enjoying the yummy samples of food.

But there was also the Little Talk. Each farmer was supposed to get up in front of the crowd and give a Little Talk about her or his respective farm.

“What!” I quailed, in my firmly introverted way, as my fellow farmer and I drove to the CSA Fair. “I didn't know we'd have to do that! That's terrible! How long do we have to talk?”

“Oh, it's nothing,” said my extroverted fellow. “Just five minutes. I'll get up and do it.”

“Oh no, oh no,” I said, “What are you going to say?”

“Oh, I don't know,” he answered cheerily, “Something. It'll be fine!”

Despite his reassuring tone, I was not reassured. By the time we got to the meeting, I had worked my introvert self into a frenzied state of nervous tension that would pass for a person able to make a Little Talk in front of a crowd of people.

“I'm going to have to go up there with you,” I said grimly, as we went into the building.

“Nah, it'll be fine,” repeated my confident fellow. “I'm not worried.”

“I'll just stand there hopeful and smiling, then,” I said. “I'll keep you company.”

“Great,” he answered, as we set up our charming table of beautiful photographs of the farm and the farming life, along with our brochures, pamphlets, and yummy samples.

All too soon, it was time for the Little Talks. There was an introduction by some generous organizer of CSA fairs, and then my fellow and I listened to the first few farmers talk. They were polished, personable, and perky.

I cast a glance of despair at my fellow. He gave me a slightly nervous look, which became more and more nervous as we made our way up to the front. I myself was beet red and gulping.

My fellow started out pretty well, talking about our nice farm and our nice draft horses, and our flourishing greenhouses and flourishing gardens. I nodded encouragingly, much happier to be looking at him than at the crowd of people.

Then he stopped talking, after approximately 67 seconds. He looked hopefully at me.

I mustered up something farmy to say, lasting perhaps 24 seconds. I looked back at him.

He said a few more words. He looked at me.

Desperate, I mentioned that our first CSA season would coincide with the birth of our first baby. This was fairly obvious, since I was nearly nine months pregant, but everyone loved it. The nice crowd was smiling, rooting for us. My fellow and I nodded at each other a few more times, in the gathering silence.

At last, my fellow made one more remark: “We're better at farming than we are at talking!” Everybody laughed a big, relieved laugh. We laughed a lot too, much more relieved than the crowd could possibly be, as we made our way back to the safe haven of our table after our goofy, gulping, under-3-minute Very Little Talk. Nevertheless, several sympathetic persons took pity on us and came to ask us CSA questions.

Since that day, nearly 17 years ago, my fellow and I have learned many things, about farming, of course, and also about talking in front of crowds. But the best thing we've learned?

The best thing is the beauty of organizing one's own CSA Fair! For the past ten years, we two have organized the Monadnock Region CSA fair, chock-full of hopeful, radiant farmers, all with their charming tables, beautiful photographs, and yummy food. And not one of them is required to give a Little Talk.

But we're all very glad to answer any and every question about CSA farms that all you many interested persons might have. Come talk to us on March 26th, from 2 - 4 p.m., at the Monadock Food Co-op in Keene, at this year's fine, relaxed, welcoming CSA Fair.

Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, March 15 - 17, 2017