Inside a Midwestern Community Supported Agriculture Farm

La Vista Community Supported Agriculture Farm in Godfrey, Illinois, is supplying much more than fresh local foods to their community.

| May/June 2014

Around Valentine’s Day of each year, our family plants thousands of seeds by hand. This is much more than the simple sowing of the year’s crop; it becomes a form of meditation for us as we recite a mantra of intention for each seed we plant, such as: “Grow and thrive, little seed. Thank you for nourishing and sustaining us.” We find ourselves becoming enthralled in the repetitive motion of sowing seeds. It’s a joy to stretch every so often and look up at the sky, where rivers of starlings seem to fly for miles.

We are well into our fifth season as farmers at La Vista Community Supported Agriculture Farm, on the scenic bluffs overlooking the mighty Mississippi outside of Godfrey, Illinois. We offer fresh, organic produce grown with a lot of hard work, but also grown with a lot of contemplation. While this is certainly a business venture for our family, it’s also very much a vocation — one which has taught us more about ourselves, our connection to others, and our connection to food than we could have ever imagined.

This knowledge, though, has certainly come with its fair share of challenges — challenges that have taught us through trial by fire how to appreciate the art of being humbled, and how to learn from each season to improve the next. There is always an underlying current of the precariousness of the elements, but the welcoming arms of the La Vista community definitely make it all worthwhile. Indeed, we have built friendships that will last a lifetime, and growing food for others is a real privilege for us. Perhaps a look into our lives and the seasons on our Community Supported Agriculture farm can provide insight for others looking to make that next great leap.

Thawing out and digging in

When the ground thaws, and the chill of winter lifts slightly from the fields, my husband begins to till the soil, adding compost and nutrients each step of the way. He sows the first seeds while still able to see his breath, beginning with hardy greens and following with root crops, such as carrots, beets and turnips. He then plants peas and gourmet lettuce blends, and then tills again in the weeks to follow.

By then, the seedlings in the greenhouse have grown to their full potentials in the inch-wide cell packs they were planted in a month earlier. We hop on the back of the water wheel transplanter and push the bare roots of each healthy “plug” into the exposed earth just after the transplanter creates a hole filled with water. Quickly and efficiently, an apprentice and I cover each plug with soil, ensuring its roots are secure. We water wheel transplant cool-season crops, such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Napa cabbage, kale, rainbow chard, scallions and head lettuce.

With each passing day, there are farm chores to be done: organizing the outbuildings, sharpening the tools, placing additional seed orders, maintaining the plants in the fields, watering, hand weeding, cultivating, perennial propagation, and filling more trays with soil. Our days are long and filled with responsibilities, and our lists get longer as the seasons progress.

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