“I’M JUST SAYING,” MY FRIEND Bess Marvin said as we pushed open the door of the River Heights Community Center, “I don’t see how you can get this excited about vegetables.”
She was talking to George Fayne, her cousin and my other best friend, who was following behind with an expression like she’d just sucked on a lemon. Ned Nickerson, my boyfriend, was right behind George with an amused look on his face.
“They’re not just vegetables,” George said, in the frustrated tone of someone who’d been arguing with the same person nearly since birth. “They’re organic, sustainable, locally grown vegetables. And fruits too!”
“I just think it’s all a little silly,” Bess said as we entered the community center gymnasium, which was set up like a banquet hall, filled with round tables covered with red tablecloths and enticing combinations of fresh harvest products. A banner welcomed us: FIRST ANNUAL BLACK CREEK FARM CSA BANQUET AND HARVEST CELEBRATION.
George glared at her cousin. “How is organic farming silly?” she demanded.
Ned spoke up. “I might see what Bess is getting at,” he said, giving George a disarming grin. “Not that any farming is silly, but . . . you know, scientists have been trying for years to prove that organically grown produce is better for you, and they’ve found very little evidence.”
“Well, thank you, Dr. Science,” George grumbled.
I was saved from further arguing by the interruption of a grinning blond woman with a purple streak in her hair.
I held up my hands in the gesture for truce. “All right, all right,” I said.
“OMG, Bess and George!” the woman cried, appearing out of nowhere to pull the two cousins into a big hug. “You guys are so big now! The last time I saw you, you were kids . . . now you’re young ladies, as my grandmother would say!”
George and Bess exchanged glances and smiled as she slowly let them go.
“Holly,” George said, “we’re so excited that you invited us to this!” She paused to introduce Ned and me to Holly. “Guys, this is Holly Sinclair. She was Bess’s and my awesome Girl Scouts leader and now she’s assistant manager at the community center.”
Holly shook each of our hands excitedly. “I’m so happy you could come!” she said, her cheeks flushed. “Black Creek Farm CSA is doing some really good work, trying to change the way our food gets grown,” she continued, growing serious. “They just need some more support from the community. So I convinced them to throw this dinner so people can taste their food!”
“Holly, I told you,” Bess said teasingly, “I like organic farms and all, but we’re not exactly the culinary decision makers in our families. And my mom really likes the Stop-N-Go,” she added. “Especially since they put in that Starbucks.”
Holly shook her head, her dark eyes shining. “Your mom probably wouldn’t like it so much if she knew where all that mass-produced food was coming from, or what it’s doing to the environment,” she said. “Come on, guys, have a seat with me.”
Holly led our small group to a nearby table, where we all pulled out chairs.
“Soooo,” Holly began, slidinHealthy eating becomes a hazard when a local farm is sabotaged in this ninth book of the Nancy Drew Diaries.
Nancy, Bess, and George are thinking about joining Black Creek Farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Sam and Abby Heyworth run both Black Creek’s organic farm and the CSA, a program where people pay to receive fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the growing season. Buyers get local produce at a reasonable price; the farmers get money to run their farm. Everybody wins!
But during a fundraising dinner showcasing the farm’s produce, several people become seriously ill, and tests reveal that the fruits and vegetables are contaminated with deadly E. coli bacteria. Sam swears his produce is clean: E. coli doesn’t magically appear in vegetables—it has to be transferred by animals or contaminated equipment. And after the Heyworth’s greenhouse is trashed and their chickens are killed by an intruder, Nancy thinks all signs point to sabotage.
Nancy, Bess, and George are on the case. But who would try to ruin a farm? And why?