Henri fills his belly with GRUB’s weekly produce program
Henri was miserable. We were on a country road in the middle of nowhere, hot and dusty, and not a gin and tonic in sight. Sweat poured down my face and onto the lapels of my blazer. Suddenly, Colette pulled out and sped up to about 90 and passed some kind of hideous-looking farm-y machine driving right down the road. Sacre bleu! I thought I was going to die!
“Woops,” Colette said, looking back over her shoulder. “Almost drove right by it.” She slammed on the brakes and skidded to a stop on the shoulder of the road as the tractor-y thing drove on by.
“What?” I said. “Drove right by what? You almost just got us killed.”
“This week’s vegetables,” she said, turning around and then turning onto a little road that cut across a field.
I hugged Miss Marilyn to my breast. “I think we are back in Kansas,” I whispered into her little ear.
After a few minutes we arrived at a clearing, with an old farmhouse, a few parked cars, and several tables set up in the shade of an arbor. People mingled about, chatting and filling baskets with produce displayed on the tables. She pulled to a stop. “Come on.”
“What makes you think I’m getting out of the car?”
She walked around to my side, unlocked the door, and literally dragged me out. Turns out it was a good thing, because even though my new argyles got hopelessly dusty (note to self: shorts and fisherman’s sandals occasionally inappropriate), we filled two large baskets with some of the best produce I’ve ever tasted.
GRUB CSA is a local nonprofit committed to sustainable farming and providing the Chico community with fresh, quality organic produce. Officially, their aim is “to educate and engage the community about the health and environmental benefits of growing, harvesting, distributing and consuming local food … to connect and empower people in living a more sustainable life.” The group, founded in 2007 by four Chico State students, is part of the nationwide Community Supported Agriculture (www.localharvest.org/csa).
GRUB (Growing Resourcefully Uniting Bellies) members pay $100 to join and then $75 a month to fill a box with hand-picked produce once a week, all year long except in January. Members also get the GRUB newsletter, which includes recipes, information on produce storage and indications of what will be available in coming weeks.
Because of the seasonal nature of the group’s farming, the produce available varies not only throughout the year but from week to week. It also means you fill your box with anywhere from eight or 10 to two dozen different fruits and vegetables, from apricots to zucchini. Small, hand-drawn signs on the tables indicate how much you take on each visit, sometimes by weight (a pound of carrots), sometimes by number (three heads of garlic).
Nearly palpable is the enthusiasm of not only the group—the farmers themselves, who offer friendly advice and cooking suggestions—but also the members, who take clear delight in filling their boxes and baskets with produce that was harvested in some cases just hours earlier.
Colette and I left with two green bell peppers, two cucumbers, a large red cabbage, five pounds of small red potatoes, one pound of beets, a pound and a half of carrots, a basket of cherry tomatoes, three heads of garlic, a pound of onions, a huge bunch of Swiss chard and a small bunch of basil.
I grilled the peppers, beets and chard, and Colette made a wonderful salad of sliced cucumbers and cherry tomatoes.
“Glad I joined GRUB?” she asked, taking a sip of Sauvignon blanc.
I had to admit I was.
“You know?” she said. “I can kinda see you in a pair of overalls.”
Then she laughed—thank God.