Farm Journal 10: That’s Right, I GREW That!

Ruth Burke / Heavy Table

University of Minnesota Agriculture student Ruth Burke is spending this summer interning at a CSA farm called Cramer Organics of Delano, MN. Throughout the growing season, she’ll share weekly updates about the experience with readers of the Heavy Table.

Farm Journal 10: That’s right, I Grew That!

Prior to this summer, I never would have thought that vegetables could be cute or beautiful. And to be honest, I never felt guilty about throwing unused food out either. Come to think of it, I didn’t dread the coming storms quite as much as I do now, and I never used to feel strange if I didn’t eat vegetables with each meal. My, oh my, how those things have changed for me.

I was quite excited the other day because Madrone, one of the other workers, saved an adorable zucchini just for my box! Apparently, he had overheard me gushing about how cute it was earlier in the day. And that was the not the first time this summer that I have raved about how pretty the crops are — neither am I the only one. Joey often walks through her fields and exclaims over the adorable baby fennel or the brilliant little orange cherry tomatoes. You really can’t help it; they become like your pets. You’ve put time and energy into making that plant grow as healthy as possible and when you see the results, they are truly lovely.

Courtesy of Ruth Burke / Heavy Table

When storms come, I find that I get much more nervous now than I ever did before… but for the crops! We’ve had a difficult time this season with damp-loving diseases like powdery mildew and spot blotch. Our washed out fields are just coming back, and to get more rain would only be cruel at this point. Hail is now my worst nightmare; last Friday I continually checked the radar to make sure the hail was going to miss our farm (thankfully it did, but I feel terrible for the farms that it did hit). I can’t help but do a little happy dance in the mornings when I check the radar and see that the day will be dry and sunny!

I’ve never been your typical college kid in that I’ve always had a pretty healthy diet. I always tried to include one vegetable serving a day, plenty of fruit and grains, and a little protein here and there. I never eat fast food and I don’t drink soda. I thought I had a pretty good diet going when I started working at the farm this summer. Boy, I didn’t know what I was missing! Let me tell you that the vegetable selection you have at a conventional grocery store is paltry. I’ve eaten many new vegetables this summer that I didn’t even know existed. It’s pretty pathetic, but I didn’t know there were different kinds of eggplant or cauliflower. And I’d never eaten Swiss chard or kale before. Well, I’m hooked now!

On top of that, I’ve discovered that I hate throwing my unused produce out. Heck no! I invested my figurative blood, sweat, and tears into that crap — there’s no way I’m letting it go to waste! Because of this, I’ve had to resort to all sorts of sources for recipes to cook all this produce. Not only have I learned a great deal about cooking (it’s not just smearing peanut butter on bread anymore), but I’ve also gotten very organized about my meal planning so that I use everything and don’t have too much left over. It’s actually quite addictive to eat vegetables at every meal, and I have no intention of letting that change just because of winter.

I have started finding great vegetable stew recipes, and I’ve learned how to properly freeze some of my veggies as well. I plan on being well stocked for the winter months so that I can continue to have my veggie-crack fix on a daily basis. I’ll tell you, I feel a lot healthier now too. Granted, I’m sure the daily exercise and sunshine help as well, but I just like the feeling of a mainly vegetarian diet. Now that I’ve been exposed to the variety of produce that is available, I certainly can’t stick my head back in the sand where it used to be. No, no, I’ve taken the red pill and I am definitely awakened. And you know what? I like being more attached to my food. I like knowing where it came from and knowing what went into making it. I appreciate it more and I savor each bite of each meal because I know, from start to finish, how that meal was made. Suddenly, I am able to really enjoy my food. That is a self-realized gift that I have no intention of returning!

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Ruth Burke / Heavy Table


  1. Stephanie

    As a vegan, city-dwelling cubicle drone who yearns for nothing more than to return to the farm life of her childhood, I’ve been reading this series with much interest and envy — this article was great. I wish I could grow half of the veggies mentioned here in my tiny backyard plots. Thanks for the updates, keep up the fantastic work, and best of luck versus all those mid-season blights and mildews. Eat some kale chips for me! :)

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