Here it is, the time of year when work should be slowing, yet it seems the pace is just as frenetic as ever. It’s no mystery why. For one, we’re down to a skeleton crew, having lost our summer help. Second, the winter share has added to the workload. Finally, the tomatoes and eggplant that should have peaked in late August are a month behind schedule, compounding an already-full harvest load. But complaining doesn’t get the job done, so we keep moving.
Dan and I were just invited to speak about food waste at the International Energy and Sustainability Conference at Farmingdale State College on October 20, and the timing is particularly auspicious. I often get bristly when the topic comes up, because while the statistics can be confounding (up to 40% of U.S. food goes uneaten), there is a huge difference between waste in the kitchen and waste in the field. As I sit here writing, Steve is mowing down a field of overgrown arugula and broccoli raab. These yellowed greens would hardly make it off the extras table, therefore we’re taking the opportunity to disk the field, plant a cover crop, and move on. In a perfect world, every seed purchased would be planted, cultivated, harvested, and eaten. But to insure myself from the vagaries of nature, and to supply the CSA with excellent food at best and edible food at worst, I overplant. That bok choy with bottom rot? Let it rot in the field. That bed of overgrown wax beans? Let the members pick what they want. This “waste” is a far cry from the waste you see in commercial and residential kitchens—when food grown, packed, and shipped from thousands of miles away ends up in the trash. You could make a full-time job of eliminating food waste on the farm, but we already have a full-time job. And since all of our waste is cycled back into the farm, it’s hard for us to even conceive of it as such.
Meanwhile, the clock is winding down to the last CSA pickup. With just four weeks to go, we’ve still got lots of new crops to distribute. Beets, carrots, and onions return, plus escarole, radicchio, cabbage, and celeriac. We start digging sweet potatoes this weekend, and while I haven’t had a chance for an up-close inspection of the broccoli, from a distance it looks great. The summer may have been flighty—slow to arrive, quick to leave, then boomeranging back—but fall is undeniably here.