Beck Creek Garden CSA Dinner

By CORY FRONING

Landscape and Livelihood students digging for potatoes, one of our favorite activities

Landscape and Livelihood students digging for potatoes, one of our favorite activities

When I remember yesterday’s CSA dinner, the memory isn’t my own, but rather it’s drawn from the brain of a third person; sitting in the clouds, peering out over the Missions, into the belly of the Swan, zooming in on a tiny patch of sunflowers and zucchini and warm bodies roaming around, greeting each other with smiles speckled with deep red flecks of beet brownies. This is how most of my memories are from this Condon summer - stories once told to me, vivid dreams accidentally stored away as reality.

 
Students harvesting for the CSA dinner and soaking up the last bits of summer

Students harvesting for the CSA dinner and soaking up the last bits of summer

 
Fall harvest

Fall harvest

At 6:03pm Bob and Sue Cushman were making their way up the hill to the Beck Homestead barn and the students burst into the kitchen, letting me know the guests were arriving. At this point I was in full-panic mode, ready to throw an entire pot of soup onto the ground because it was supposed to be vegan, and I tend to refuse to use recipes. So of course, when it wasn’t silky smooth and creamy to my satisfaction, I added the tried and true cure to all my problems – butter. This was immediately after the gluten-free-fiasco, when I rubbed wheat flour all over my hands and the table and the ball of dough that I so lovingly perfected for our gluten-intolerant friends the day before, grinding oats and almonds, kneading, kneading, kneading. Sophie and Aspen, two of our wonderful Landscape and Livelihood students, gently told me that maybe I should change out of my rotten-potato-smeared jeans, and pushed me out of the kitchen that we somehow hadn’t left in six hours.

Me and all my potato friends

Me and all my potato friends

Evan washing heaps of potatoes, beets, and turnips

Evan washing heaps of potatoes, beets, and turnips

Riley and Henry shredding beets for beet cake and beet brownies

Riley and Henry shredding beets for beet cake and beet brownies

Aspen and Lucy showing off the hand pies they stuffed with garden vegetables

Aspen and Lucy showing off the hand pies they stuffed with garden vegetables

As I prepared to enter the barn, a wave of nerves caught me by surprise. I had no idea what I could possibly say to the people at this dinner, who blindly put their faith in me to work their cherished land and fill their grocery bags with food every week. Gratitude is a small string of nine letters, but is the best way I know to translate the feeling that fills me up every day when I am sifting through the soil with my fingers, looking for grass roots to yank out, thanking the magic worms who churn powdered rock until it is rich with nutrition.

CSA members and students share a meal of Beck Creek Gardens veggies, harvested that morning. The menu included pesto & curry hand pies, kale salad, creamy zucchini soup, and beet brownies

CSA members and students share a meal of Beck Creek Gardens veggies, harvested that morning. The menu included pesto & curry hand pies, kale salad, creamy zucchini soup, and beet brownies

As I began talking to shareholders across our plates full of roasted rosemary root veggies and curried hand-pies, my nerves instantly simmered down. While our conversations ranged from hiking to wolf collaring to elk hunting to who’s dating whom, I noticed a trend throughout the evening. All conversation was inseparable from both our community and the land we live on. In my twenty-two years of deeply loving plants and dirt and people and food, I have never experienced a community in which all of these elements were revered and intertwined, until I moved to Condon. The Beck Creek Garden community is a group of people who have shown me what it means to have sense of place and to live life accordingly.  It means accepting mountains of garlic scapes in early July and trusting that the zucchini will come, it means leaving spontaneous notes of affirmation for those who support you, it means gifting sheets of frost cover to a young farmer you don’t know, it means going to a neighbors’ to pick up seed potatoes, and staying for dinner and conversation and wine and meeting all their baby goats. Thank you, Condon, for enabling this beautiful community and season of bounty, which are inextricable from each other.