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First task of spring in the food bank plots was to cut down the peas and vetch, which meant getting out the machete. I hadn’t handled one before. But once I had the rhythm down – the swing is not unlike that of a tennis forehand – I found I liked the sensation of the blade swishing through cover crop, the occasional stony click of hitting something solid. I was impressed by how dense and massed the crop had become. Next week we’ll pull up the roots and turn it all over, then get ready to plant.

It’s a roundabout way of saying that I’m taking over some of the food bank beds this spring. I look forward to the challenge, and not just because there’s something about growing vegetables organically that reverberates deep in the bones. Growing good food for others, for strangers, feels sort of different.

Sort of like farming.

As we’re not leaving the city anytime soon, that’s pretty great. A couple weeks ago I volunteered at the food bank and the only vegetables on offer were frozen orange squash and onions, so I know there’s a constant need. Last year our garden delivered hundreds of pounds of spinach, beets, winter greens, and squash, and this year – well, I’ve already been tinkering with the formula in my head. Perhaps some beans to refresh the nitrogen in the soil. Perhaps some broccoli, since it can be eaten raw or with just a brief application of heat. I was impressed by the number of food bank clients who declined the few whole foods available, which included both squash and a bag of dried pinto beans. Some told me they didn’t know what they’d do with the squash, and one said that the expense of cooking pintos, which amounts to an hour and a half’s worth of fuel, was too much. It’s all useful fodder as I begin contemplating the year’s growing strategy.

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