In May of 2012, I lost my job of six years in Dallas, Texas. Around the same time, my younger sister was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. In discussions with family we came to a mutual decision that I shouldn't stay in Texas, and that my being back in Washington state would be best for everyone. I blew six months of savings just moving my belongings, and had to borrow money to put myself on a plane while the state of Texas played games with my unemployment compensation (eventually denied). In August of that year, the move was complete. I began to look for work locally.
But with little or no money, and being in a demographic that consistently doesn't qualify for a whole lot of public assistance (single white male under the age of 60), how was I going to feed myself?
The answer, of course, had been staring me in the face for years.
I'd know Marylin Holt and Cliff Wind from science fiction fandom. Decades of attending conventions, and the monthly gatherings of an eclectic group of fans and writers known as "Vanguard." Marylin had been instrumental in jumpstarting the Clarion West Writer's Workshop in the 1980s. I knew that Marylin's family owned a farm near Poulsbo, WA, and that after she and Cliff had retired they'd moved to the farm full-time.
Abundantly Green Certified Organic Produce is on 60 acres of land on Madison road, nestled between the towns of Bremerton, Silverdale, and Poulsbo. It's mere minutes from where I live by car.
Before I even got on the plane to fly back from Texas, I reached out to Marylin, and arranged to come out to the farm.
I'd known the answer to my situation, because it was something I was exposed to as a child (Thanks Mom!), that small farms are in constant need of help, and can never afford to hire enough hands. I learned this in a summer of picking strawberries for a man who has become something of a local legend, Akio Suyematsu, who that August 2012, died at the age of 90.
...and so August of 2012 saw me pulling weeds on an organic farm.
Soon enough, I was helping out with the chicken slaughter each month. It's a nasty business, but if you eat meat, it has to be done. There was no money in it, but my volunteer work counted as a "Workshare CSA." So each month, I would go out to the farm, put in eight hours (or often more), and go home with a bag of fresh produce, and the occasional chicken.
Here's a list of Abundantly Green's CSA prices. My efforts as a workshare CSA member earned me the equivalent of a small/half share, or slightly more since the farm shares don't generally include chicken. $23/week is over four times what I'd get on food stamps were I eligible, and the farm gets my labor.
But there's nothing at all exceptional about my relationship with Marylin and Cliff, that anyone else couldn't do the same.
If you want to try it, start with this google search.
If you have more money than time, I do commend you to a farm share CSA. Far better, however, is to actually meet and befriend a farmer. Go to a farmer's market and introduce yourself.
I truly can't say enough good things about making friends with your local farmer. There are benefits to you, there are benefits to the farm. There are benefits to the local economy. There are even benefits to the world as a whole. It's a win all the way around.