I just picked up my first Locavorious package of the season –yippee! The temperature has dropped to single digits and I am about to open a bag of Michigan strawberries. Or maybe I’ll make some oatmeal and add my Michigan blueberries. Hmmm, should I serve some local asparagus with dinner tonight? I could go on and on…it’s all grown here in Michigan and picked/frozen at the height of the season so that I can bring back a little bit of summer on this frigid December day. I’ve always appreciated working with these amazing products but this year is different – because I was a part of the process. As I lovingly unpack the bag, I look at the goodies and wonder – did I clip the green tips off of my strawberries? Did I look over my blueberries to remove stems, and did I weigh them? Did I slice my peaches – super carefully so I would not bruise them? Did I package my asparagus?
That’s right. This summer I took the step from CSA member to working with Rena and the Locavorious crew out at the Washtenaw Hub each week. I have always been keenly interested in food and the local food movement, and I wanted to get a behind-the-scenes view of how the frozen CSA worked.
What an experience! I had no idea how much manual labor went into each product, how each product had its own process going from crate/box to bag and deep freezer, how excited Rena gets about ways to expand distribution with new fruits/vegetables to offer (maize and blue popsicles anyone?). It was not easy work….standing on a cement floor for hours, repetitively chopping, washing, packaging all of the different products. I don’t know how I thought the corn made it into the tubs, all ready for my chowder, but now I know. It takes hours of husking, stripping, blanching, packaging, labeling, etc etc. But hey, the corn was picked that morning before getting hauled into the kitchen, and it went into the freezer in less than 8 hours – it really doesn’t get any fresher or yummier than that.
I grew up in the city – three-flat apartment buildings on the north side of Chicago. I could navigate a bus and train to Wrigley Field by myself at the age of 9 (Go Cubs!). So needless to say I had very little exposure to farming and food. My naïve urban self had this impression that family farm prep happened on porch rocking chairs, with women shelling beans together, chatting the day away. It always seemed like the ultimate in happy communities. And that is what working at Locavorious felt like. (Don’t worry, it’s a very sanitary commercial kitchen out at the Hub, that’s not what I’m saying.) I loved the feeling, the community, the sharing – and not just in our Locavorious kitchen. From the guy baking bread in the kitchen on one side, to the Brinery doing their thing in the kitchen on the other side, to the worm compost guy who collected our scraps…everyone was into the idea that local, seasonal food is the healthiest and best-tasting food. For one afternoon a week I stood over a stainless steel table wearing my required gloves and hat, working my process while chatting with Magdiale, or Jada, or Michelle, or Kristen. For me, working at Locavorious this summer was the modern day equivalent of shelling beans on the front porch.
So this winter, I feel even more connected to the local food movement and feel grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this community. Enjoy your little piece of summer this winter – I certainly will!
Kitchen team in the “green kitchen” at the Washtenaw Food Hub, prepping peaches. Clockwise: Magdiale, Kristin, Michelle, Jada, and Ruth.