I met Harold Carney and Mary Anne Woodie when I (finally) joined a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) two years ago. A CSA is basically a family-run farm or garden open to shareholders. Each shareholder pays or works toward a weekly share of fresh, local, and in this case, organic produce. I have known of CSAs for years, but the couple's Freehome Gardens was my first experience.
When at all possible, I prefer to shake the hand and look into the eyes of the people who grow my food. Knowing that the lettuce and fresh garlic I eat tonight and the strawberries I eat tomorrow morning were harvested by someone I met, from land I have walked on, feels right on so many levels. Sure beats standing in the produce department of the supermarket wondering how an anonymous 'they' grew a tomato halfway around the globe, in a country I have never visited, that may look but tastes nothing like a tomato.
Dressed only in shorts and work boots, Harold is tanned and fit for a man his age, which I'd have to guess, but won't. Grey chest-hair contrasting his skin, he smells brown and green, and of honest labor when I shook his hand. He has a face and smile that christens you with kindness, that makes you feel and believe that you are his favorite customer, friend, neighbor.
Mary Anne sits in a wooden rocking chair in the carport. Last year she underwent surgery and radiation for a brain tumor that left her weak and suffering the usual side-effects: nausea and hair loss. Thin as a wisp, she wears a ball cap pulled low. These days she's looking good and getting her strength back.
Every Wednesday I drive to Freehome Gardens, which is really just a small country home on a patch of land on Trinity Church Road in Canton. I pull in the short driveway through a rainbow gauntlet of flowers, hollyhocks nodding from the back, past pristine rows of Swiss chard, heirloom tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers to name a few summer selections. Butterflies float from row to row. Birds sing from the forest behind the house, and Whitey, the rooster, hollers from the hen pen.
"Whitey still ruling the roost," I asked on a recent visit.
"Yea," Harold said. "But he's getting meaner every day."
"Time for some chicken stew," Mary Anne piped.
Every Wednesday I fill my bags with produce grown by Harold and Mary Anne and sometimes eggs from the hens Whitey loves so well. But I leave with more than my bags full. I come away with soul-brimming gratitude, my heart soaked in peace and this verse:
God bless the backs that produce good food.
God bless the hands that prepare good food.
God bless the mouths that eat good food.
And now, you've met Harold and Mary Anne.