I’m not going to belabor my thoughts about Shawnté and I’s trip to Oak Glen, but I wanted to share my experience and aftermath of that fateful day we sought out some U PICK apples.
Ok, let’s be real. I’ve blown so much more $ on non-local, non-organic crap. But for whatever reason, it wasn’t the fact that Oak Glen was the carnival from hell, the fact that we were so disconnected from an actual farm, the fact that we couldn’t find a normal functioning place to eat that didn’t sound as appealing as A&W, but the fact that the apple we bought from what seemed like the best orchard stand in the area was $1.25. The folks at Mom’s Country Orchards were super nice, don’t get me wrong. And what a cute place. They offered us endless samples of mustard, preserves, pickled items, jams, jellies, apple butter, you name it. They rang us up after some friendly discourse, but as we bit into our Fuji apples and walked back down the road to the car, I noticed a strange, silent feeling falling over us. We had put stock into this glimmer of hope nestled amongst pirate shows, cafeteria food, god awful crafts, (Jimmy Buffet cover band in our near future) and…what just happened? We didn’t bring it up with each other until we got back to the car. Yeah. This apple seemed pricey right? We drove all this way after all. Tourist bump perhaps? Even though Shawnté read that it had been an early apple season, which affected apple prices, we still felt defeated, estranged more than ever from our food sources, and the feeling lingered for weeks to come.
The last experience I had apple picking was in the NY/NJ area, where you pick your own. The images and photographs from that idyllic day are burned into my memory. Some are below. It was the holy grail of apples. So many you almost drowned in them. Kids were, in fact, beaning them at tree trunks, smashing them into mealy apple splats because there were so many. I felt weird about it. Gluttonous. We came home with seven full bags of apples that day, plus a jug of cider. We came home from Oak Glen with a doggie bag of catfish from a local saloon that was showing the Packers game. This actually ended up being the bright spot of our day, but how did this happen in the land of fruits and nuts? Shouldn’t we be drowning in cheap organic produce?
So where did we go wrong? We could’ve started with a farmer’s market in the LA area, talked to folks individually, then gone to visit their farms, rather than trusting the internet, right? Easier said than done. Every time I thought I’d finally found a list of local farms to visit through a farmer’s market site, I’d discover they were in the SF area or elsewhere. If I was getting flustered after hours/days of research, how would anyone who cares half that much not give up right away, or even bother in the first place if the info wasn’t right in front of them?
I signed up for a CSA (as Shawnté mentioned) on a lark a few months ago. I met a girl working at a stand on the Santa Monica Promenade (ironically on my way to National HoneyBee Day), we chatted for a bit, and boom. Done. CSAs had come up in conversation recently and I decided I wanted to try one, and low and behold, here it was. I figured, I’ll try by doing and see what happens.
After receiving weekly boxes of very nice produce from our CSA – Farm Fresh To You – I thought, Oh, with the Foods badge what a great time to visit the farm I get my produce from! Then I discovered it was north of San Francisco.
I looked further into it. Oh ok, they have a Southern California branch as well in Imperial Valley, which is…still 3.5 hours away south of Salton Sea (yum).
Then I dug further and found positive and negative articles in regards to this CSA (distance being a negative). It’s my fault for diving in without looking, but I assumed at the very least CSA meant community supported agriculture, as in not over 500 miles away. The produce is fresh, good. I can’t complain. And it’s convenient. Delivered to my door. Do I have a right to think this is weird? Or am I being hypocritical? There’s plenty of things I buy that did not come from my backyard. How close do we need ‘local’ to be exactly? In our living room? On our roof? I know there are plenty of 1-2 man operations cranking out wonderful things like honey and jam and whatever else you can make all over the LA area, but what’s the right answer? And just how douchey am I getting with this? While I was rifling through articles about “finding the right CSA for you” and “being knowledgeable about where your food comes from, you live in SoCal for chrissake!” I stumbled upon Gwyenth Paltrow’s 20 Most Obnoxious Food Quotes. I guess this is a sign.
I know that times are changing, what and how we eat is important, and we all need to be more conscious of what we’re putting in our bodies. I also know that I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and we got our food from the grocery store, fast food/chain restaurants, and a ‘local’ Chinese and pizza place. A fancy night out for my family was when Olive Garden first opened in the mall. We used to dress up. I kid you not. Every time I try to better myself by going local and organic, I have a contradicting voice in my head that says, “really? listen to yourself,” when I ask a server at a restaurant if something is in season or where it comes from. Cue Portlandia sketch.
I’m attempting to find a good middle ground here, and these initial experiences have only caused me to dig in deeper, and have more real life conversations with people about this. There is no shortage of them in SoCal, thankfully. There is much ground to cover still, but I’m getting there. I’ve found friends that pickle things or make jam because they hopped on this train long before I thought to, a family member of an organic cattle ranch north of San Luis Obispo, some wonderful ladies that partner with local vendors to sell their wares at places like Crafted at The Port of Los Angeles, and there is more to come.
Here’s hoping we find our way soon.