Lawn mowing and baby-sitting are standard summer jobs for the enterprising teenager. Alexandra Reau, who is 14, combines a little bit of each: last year, she asked her dad to dig up a half acre of their lawn in rural Petersburg, Mich., so she could farm. Now in its second season, her Garden to Go C.S.A. (community-supported agriculture) grows for 14 members, who pay $100 to $175 for two months of just-picked vegetables and herbs. While her peers are hanging out at Molly’s Mystic Freeze and working out the moves to that Miley Cyrus video, she’s flicking potato-beetle larvae off of leaves in her V-neck T-shirt and denim capris, a barrette keeping her hair out of her demurely made-up eyes. Who says the face of American farming is a 57-year-old man with a John Deere cap?
“Let’s see,” says Reau, a quiet honor student who’s a little taken aback to find a New Yorker in giant sunglasses asking her questions in the plot next to her tidy white-brick ranch house on a June afternoon. “Those are carrots, spinach, beets, kale, watermelon, squash, zucchini, peppers, lots of tomatoes . . . um . . . corn, radishes, lettuce, beans, onions, garlic.” The weeds that sprung up during her recent class trip to Washington, D.C., are taunting her as we talk. When I tell her that people pay $4 a bunch for the purslane that’s growing into the burlap coffee sacks she has laid down along the rows for quick weeding — she flips them over to uproot any invaders, kind of like waxing your garden — you can see her 4-H wheels turning. (She’s been a member for half her life.)
While we eat a colorful salad of spinach, strawberry and goat cheese (Reau’s spinach and strawberries, local goat cheese), deviled eggs (bartered) and strawberry shortcake (local, good) in the Reaus’ toile-curtained dining room, [Alexandra’s mother] Brenda explains that a quarter of last year’s members told her that they were attracted to Garden to Go because it was a young person’s effort. “They want to support someone who is interested in working instead of being on the Internet all day!” Brenda says. “And growing food. . . .”
Oh, hell yeah. Good for her. I’d support a good, hard-working kid like that in a heartbeat. Wouldn’t you? Go to that NYT story and look at the photograph of her chard. Unbelievable, the things she’s accomplished.