It's February 1st! Family CSA Project is on!

The last three months that brought us to today were a whirlwind of activity, learning, connecting, and designing. Last weekend we launched our Family CSA Project, a pilot to see if we can help families with children be more successful growing their own food and connecting in the outdoors by creating a supportive environment on a local farm.

How can we help families with children be more successful connecting in the outdoors? What do young families need? 

 Five year old smiles when she's harvesting beets for dinner

Five year old smiles when she's harvesting beets for dinner

Basics first. My own experience says the basics have to be managed first. It seems kids need sleep, food, weather-appropriate clothing, and a generous supply of grownup attention at their baseline. If my kids are over-tired or hungry, family gardening will not be pretty. Napping in the bike on the way there and providing snacks (of the packed or freshly harvested variety) helps. Our farm is trying to facilitate meeting basic needs by piloting our project in the morning-- 10am-noon-- and inviting families to bring picnics for lunch after harvest time.

Enthusiasm and fun. The older my kids are growing, the more I see how happy they are when an adult is excited about something. A little enthusiasm, fun, and magic goes a long way. Now that my daughter is in kindergarten, I've made the sad observation that some of the adults she spends her day with are tired (just human!) and have repeated themselves thousands of times. Abby's kindergarten teacher is a fantastic exception-- she brings so much energy to class and fills up her classroom with fun, chants, songs, and surprises. I want to be that kind of farmer-teacher!

Real work. There is a certain look of accomplishment and pride on my children's faces when they do something truly helpful in the garden. They can tell when they're doing "real" work and contributing. My daughter's favorite job last summer was harvesting cherry tomatoes for half an hour while I made dinner. Being small and nimble, she could reach into the tomato vine forest and pull out hundreds of those juicy, shiny spheres. She'd run back and ask, "What else can I pick, mama?"

Edible deliciousness. Peas, ground cherries, tomatoes... kids love snacking vegetables, so we're planning to grow as many as we can in as many colors as we can.

Sand and dirt. I have many photos of my toddlers sitting in garden aisles squishing dirt. There is something so lovely for children about mixing water with sand or soil. It's one of our family traditions to attend the Holler Fest at Frog Holler Farm in Brooklyn, Michigan each August. It's a family music festival on a great farm, and besides dancing to the beat, our kiddos favorite part seems to be the sand mountain. The farm hauls in a dump truck worth of sand, throws a few sand toys on there, and voila! A perfect playground. 

We're adding all of these elements to our Family CSA Project design as we pilot the project this year. I'm excited to brainstorm with children and the grownups in their lives about how to best connect them with their families and with nature, calm, and great food on the farm.

In other news, we've gotten a few other things done in the last month:

  • Made decisions on which markets and crops are feasible for me to grow this year given labor and time constraints
  • Created, revised, and re-revised our crop plan
  • Finalized the season's farm budget and worked on finding the tools I have cash flow to purchase this year
  • Applied to Kerrytown Farmer's Market & Argus Farm Stop
  • Registered for conferences! This year I feel grateful to be attending the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association, the  Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), and the Association of Specialty Cut Flowers Conferences and Ann Arbor's very own Local Food Summit at WCC on Monday, February 19th
  • Joined the Michigan Flower Growers Cooperative, a coop sales floor connecting local flower growers with designers, weddings, and retail markets
  • Met with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to work on a conservation plan for our new land
  • Read a lot. A recommended reading list is coming!
  • Researched compost and looked for high quality sources locally
  • Designed 15 weeks of vegetable shares for our Family CSA project
  • Negotiated a land lease with our new farm neighbor
  • Took three soil samples during the thaw and send to MSU's Soil Lab

January is supposed to be a low-key month for Michigan farmers, but as a first-season farmer it was nuts for me. I'm hoping all the planning this winter pays off in more focused & joyful work this summer. The community's response to the launch of our Family CSA Project brought so much joy to my heart and is keeping me going.

With love for the earth and this community,

Kristen

P.S. If you'd like to learn more about our Family CSA Project or sign-up, check out the Family CSA Project page.