Locavore Edith Maxwell‘s Local Foods mysteries let her relive her days as an organic farmer in Massachusetts, although murder in the greenhouse is new. A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die releases May 28 from Kensington Publishing. A fourth-generation Californian, she has also published short stories of murderous revenge.
Edith Maxwell’s pseudonym Tace Baker authored Speaking of Murder featuring Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau and campus intrigue after her sexy star student is killed. Edith is a long-time Quaker and holds a long-unused doctorate in linguistics.
Edith lives north of Boston in an antique house with her beau and three cats. She can be found at www.edithmaxwell.com.
Thanks so much for having me over, Lelia!
My new book, A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die opens on the first pick up day for the subscribers to the CSA at Cam Flaherty’s organic farm. The CS-what? CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It got its start in Europe and in Japan in the 1960s and in the US right here in New England in the mid-eighties. The movement has really taken off in the last few years, and most farms that offer CSAs also use organic growing methods.
When I had my small certified-organic farm in the early nineties in Essex County, Massachusetts, starting a CSA seemed like a natural choice, even though mine was one of only a few in the state. In the CSA model, subscribers sign up in the winter and pay ahead for a season’s worth of produce. Customers get a guaranteed portion of whatever the farm is harvesting every week. The farmer gets the money up front when she needs it for seeds, soil amendments, and other costs of running a farm, and doesn’t have to worry about watching the lettuce wilt and not sell at the farmers’ market.
CSAs vary widely. I had about twenty subscribers, but some large farms have hundreds or even thousands of shareholders. I offered half bags at the beginning and end of the season when the harvest was lighter, and customers picked up their bags in my garage at the same time every week. I packed the bags so I could apportion equally what went into them. Some farms bring the bags or boxes into urban areas for pickup or even deliver to their customers.
One CSA I belonged to a few years ago, and others I have seen outside the city, lay out bins of crops in their farm stand and post notices about how much to take. For example, “One bunch” above the bundled leeks, “Three pounds” above the potatoes, “Two” at the squash bin. In addition, subscribers are expected to pick or cut their own shares of certain crops like fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes, and cut flowers.
Part of the CSA model is to connect the customer closely with the farm. As with a shareholder in a company, the customer participates in the farm’s fortunes. If the tomato crop gets washed out by torrential rains or the peach blossoms frozen by a late frost, the shareholders don’t get tomatoes or peaches. And if a crop like strawberries succeeds beyond all expectations, the bags might include extra baskets of berries or the sign out front might read, “Pick all you want in the strawberry field.” When we belonged to the Green Meadows Farm CSA, I loved going on Thursday afternoons to load my basket with produce and pick my own of the designated crops. It really felt like my farm, except now I didn’t have to do most of the work!
And of course belonging to a CSA is a natural for people who believe in eating locally. My Local Foods Mystery series features some colorful members of a Locavore Club who belong to Cam’s CSA and are involved not only in her farm but in her hunt for the murderer.
What about you? Do you belong to a CSA or get a box delivered every week? Does the system work for you or do you end up getting more kale than you ever dreamed of wanting? Or do you prefer shopping at the farm stand or farmers’ market? Or are you a farmer? (If so, let’s talk shop!)