Sunday, October 20, 2013


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (9/22/2013)

          Now that the growing season has kissed Flagstaff goodbye, it’s time to pay attention to Karna Otten who wants everyone to have access to farm-fresh fruits and vegetables during the non-growing seasons.  It’s a simple proposition.  Three days a week (Thursday, Friday, & Saturday) she sells fresh fruits and vegetables along with some meats and preserves.  She actually does it all year because many of the horticulturally challenged, read black thumb, savor a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the year.  Also, for those of us, the divinely favored, who grow our own vegetables during the summer, it’s nice to buy our fresh fruits and vegetables all year long right after they’ve been picked.  We’ve grown accustomed to the excellence of the fresh.


          Otten’s genius is a fusion connecting local farmers with consumers.  As everyone knows, nearly all of the produce purchased in supermarkets is second or third hand.  The consumer doesn’t know where it comes from or how it’s grown, much less who grows it. Witness the recalls of bagged salads.  Otten’s local farmers are nearby and available.


          With Otten’s program the consumer can talk directly to the farmer, much like my father and mother driving out into the San Fernando Valley in the 1930’s to buy their vegetables and fruits.  At that time, San Fernando Valley was a valley of farms, plots, orchards, and groves.  One time a farmer sliced a watermelon with a knife he had just used to slice a grasshopper.  My mother indignantly insisted on another watermelon.  We’ve lost that connection with the earthiness of life.  In an industrialized commercial society, Otten wants to bring back that connection.


          Through Otten’s organization, Community Supported Agriculture, consumers sign up to buy fresh produce from the farmers.  This way the farmers can plant the number of crops needed.  Also, the consumer will know who grows the fruits and vegetables and how they’re grown.  When we put something in our mouths, we’re better off knowing what it is.


          Even though industrialized agriculture now uses such words as “organic” and “sustainable” in their advertising, the words along with other politically correct words have lost their meaning.  Once a word becomes correct, it has become a substitute for thought and meaning.  The issue is not who can advertize using those meaningless words, but the origins of the produce.  If we know the farm and the farmer, we’re a lot closer to authenticity in our food.


          For the first time in years, the number of farms is increasing rather than decreasing which is a good sign for the health of the nation.   A part of the reason is that consumers are demanding fresher and safer produce from local farmers which means more farmers.  The tide is beginning to turn from mega-industrialized farms to local farms and locally grown produce.   


          One way to test the quality of food in a restaurant is to find out from whom and where the produce comes.  If the restaurateur doesn’t know, then we don’t know what we’re putting in our mouths.  In addition to that, we can assume that if the restaurateur doesn’t know the whence and whom, the food will not taste as good as food made with fresh produce.  A taste test will do, and the best place to start is with the snap beans and tomatoes.  All the customer has to do is ask.  If the restaurateur is baffled or non-plussed by the question, we have our answer.  Caveat Emptor.  Buyer Beware. 


          Otten isn’t only concerned about the authenticity of the consumer’s produce but also about those who can’t afford it.  She gives those buying from our local farmers the opportunity to give a little more so that those on food stamps can also buy fresh produce.  Jesus said, “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”  An act of mercy is the ultimate act of authenticity.


          Karna Otten can be reached at (928) 213-8948 and for the excellence of the fresh.  Her web site is  The address is 116 West Cottage Avenue, Flagstaff. 


Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2013

Dana Prom Smith and Freddi Steele edit Gardening Etcetera for the Arizona Daily Sun in which this article appeared on 10/12/2013.  Smith’s email address is, and he blogs at   







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