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A DAY IN THE LIFE OF YOUR CSA FARM FAMILY IN PITTSBURGH, PA

by | Feb 20, 2023 | CSA, From The Farm

I’ll admit it – I am not, and I’ll repeat it, I am not a morning person and yet….I married a farmer! A city girl who married a farmer. And became a farmer herself. I could never have imagined that when I married into this farm family 18 years ago. And now we farm with our three incredible, hard-working children by our side.

Farming is a challenging yet rewarding way of life. It is entirely controlled by weather, and sometimes you may lose an entire crop you worked so hard to grow. Yet, the moment you get to taste the first watermelon of the season or the first ear of sweet corn, all the sweat, pain, and tears are forgotten, and a smile comes across your face, knowing you grew it, cared for it, and harvested it. To be a farmer who runs a Community Supported Agriculture program is demanding. Quite honestly, to be a produce farmer, you have to be downright stubborn and determined! So are you curious about what a day in our life looks like during the growing season? One word: BUSY!

Let’s examine a day in the height of the growing season on the busiest prep days during the season – Tuesday. On Tuesdays, we prep produce for approximately 25-30 CSA members and our biggest market – the Bellevue Farmer’s Market.
A Peek into a typical August Morning for a CSA Farmer

A Peek into a typical August Morning for a CSA Farmer 

Since August is hot, the earlier we can get started, the better, so, in the dead heat of the afternoon, we can be lying under a shade tree rather than in the field. The alarm goes off at 6:30 am but not being a morning person, I will crawl out of bed by 7. As I scuffle to the kitchen, I mentally review the day in my head. I prepare coffee for myself and Farmer Jeremy, and he’ll join me in the kitchen. By this point, all 3 children are up and awake, and I’ll be on mom duty telling them to get ready for the farm. I’ll start breakfast. We work hard, so a good hearty breakfast is essential. A favorite is usually pancakes, sausage, and most likely melon since it is in season during August. We will sit down to eat as a family and discuss the tasks of the day. The night before, I will have prepped dinner for the crockpot. Today we will have Sweet & Spicy meatballs with green beans and rice – a favorite of the kids. The meatballs will cook in the crockpot, and then we will make the rice and beans later.

Sun Protection is a must for a CSA Farmer

After breakfast, everyone is dressed and ready to go. We rent land from family to farm, so we do not live on the farm. By 8 am, we will load into the truck and head to the farm. We arrive at the farm at 8:30 am, and it is time to get to work, but first, we get distracted by the four farm cats. A quick little time to play with the cats, then it is time to head to the fields. We load up the truck with the picking baskets, water, and snacks and head to the field. Today’s harvest list is big, and alot of picking needs to be completed. 

Harvesting for a CSA Farmer

Farmer Jeremy picking corn

Farmer Jeremy will designate the tasks for the kids and me. The boys will head with him to the sweet corn field. Between the CSAs that must be prepped and the market, 100 dozen ears of corn are needed. It must be picked before the heat of the day. The girls will head to do tomatoes and beans. Loaded with sunscreen and a sun hat, we get to work. Approximately 350 pounds of tomatoes will be needed to fulfill CSA orders and to ensure enough for sale at the market, along with 3 bushels of green beans (with a little extra for our dinner). 

Picking beans is tedious, but I love to be in the field. These are times I treasure with my daughter. We sit in the field, loading our baskets or aprons with beans, talking about life, nature or recipes, and building core memories.

After we finish the beans and tomatoes, the boys have moved on to the watermelon field. Approximately 4 bushels of watermelon will need to be harvested. It is now 10:30 am, and we are hot, so of course we have to sample one of the juicy watermelons. We will pick a watermelon, sit under a tree, and split it open. Each of us enjoys a refreshing piece of melon, some water, and a little break and then it is back to work. 

Next up is bell peppers. Nathan and I head to the pepper field and harvest 3 bushels. While we do this, Jeremy, Liam, and Allison will pick 4 bushels of zucchini. Liam loves picking zucchini because he gets to use a farm knife (with supervision). However, zucchini baskets get heavy quickly. After the peppers and zucchini harvest is completed, we have eggplant left to pick. We harvest 2 bushels of eggplant, and now our truck is full, so it is time to move to the barn and cooler to unload. It is also lunchtime, so we will make some sandwiches, sit under a tree, and enjoy our lunch. We use this time to discuss what else needs to be completed for the day.

100 heads of lettuce still need to be harvested, but we will pick that tomorrow morning since it is better to harvest the lettuce before the heat of the day. Sweaty and tired, we are done with the fieldwork for the day. We have already harvested in July our garlic and onions. We will need 2 bushels of onions and a peck of garlic for Wednesday.

Part of the Pepper Fields

Packing CSA Boxes and Market Prep for a CSA Farmer

After lunch, it is time to organize the produce we harvested and prep the CSA boxes. We have already pre -printed a label for each CSA member that will be picking up on Wednesday, which includes a list of the produce they will be receiving in their CSA box. It takes 30 minutes to load 25 CSA boxes. These are then loaded into the cooler so they are ready for delivery the next day. After the lettuce is harvested in the morning, it will be bagged and added to each produce box. 

Farmer Jeremy preps everything else needed for the market the next day into crates, and the kids help stack the crates. It is now close to 2 pm and the heat of the day. We will sit in the shade and probably enjoy a popsicle. The kids play and run around the farm. Jeremy and I sit under the tree and watch them, exhausted and loaded with sweat. We are happy, though. The kids ask for a snack, husk an ear of corn, and eat it raw.  I sample the corn, and it is so sweet. No wonder it is a favorite of our customers. 

Evening Chores for a CSA Farmer

It is about 3 pm now, and we head home. When we arrive home, the kids will play or have some reading time.  After that, we all complete the evening’s household chores.  I finish preparing dinner. We sit together at the table and talk. The brothers annoy their sister a bit, some squeals erupt but then end in laughter. For dessert, we slice up the watermelon that has been chilling in the fridge. (And yes, we really do eat that much watermelon in a day because once watermelon season ends, we wait a whole year for it to return.)

After dinner, I send out text reminders to our CSA members who are picking up on Wednesday. They have already received the weekly email with the meal plan on Sunday. Sometimes, CSA members will text back with questions or needing to make changes to their pickup for the next day and I will communicate with them.  After that, we spend some time as a family and then get ready for bed.

End of the Day for a CSA Farmer 

As my head hits the pillow, I feel the aching in my back, but I am happy and grateful for the air conditioning after being in the heat all day. I am happy to have seen our harvest, happy to have spent the day with my husband and children and am excited to share our produce with our CSA members and customers the next day. It’s been a good day! Yes, life as a CSA farmer requires hard work and determination but it surely is rewarding and maybe, just maybe, this former city girl will eventually turn into a morning person! (MAYBE!)

All the best, 
​Kim Haffey – Haffey Family Farm