As Mother Time tends to Her insatiable thirst — greedily swallowing the early days of summer, lengthening the shadow of the Solstice, and turning young June to an aging July — we’ve found routine and rhythm within the weeks as they arrive, and pass again before our eyes, beneath our feet, and between our fingers. The summer’s ceaseless march has drawn us into peak harvest season, where the only tangible mark of time has become the vegetables that show up for Friday market harvest days. What was once green onions, radishes, and kale has come to include the more exciting summer fare of tomatoes, cukes, zucchini, carrots, parsley and kohlrabi.
This week, my harvest fate was the tomato, and I joined Fanni in the hoop houses to harvest a broad variety ranging from cherries to saucers; heirloom to hybrid, and yellow to striped purple. We worked up and down the rows, carefully assessing ripeness by color and feel, while Logan Brice, Danny W. and Monica finished washing and bunching green onions; Polly and a worker share picked peas; and Oren Jakobsen did Oren Jakobsen: floating around from station to station, assessing tempo and calling shots.
After tomatoes, I joined Corrina by the scale station — weighing and bagging the clean, crisp kale and collards, while she packed and sorted them into bins according to the Saturday market of their fate. The plethora of bins packed in the cooler served as a visible testament to a world of logistics, spanning the production planning sessions and spreadsheets of February, based upon years of sales and yield records.
The logistical, large-picture factorization is enough to make one’s head spin, so much of my learning takes place on the ground level, where week after week, somebody stands next to Monica at the radish station — sorting and banding bunch after bunch, while simultaneously facing the inherent rejection of her keen eye. “This one is too small.” “This one needs some replacements.” “This one has to be bunched again; the greens can’t be screwed up in the rubber band like this.” I can tell you; it is frustrating, humbling, and absolutely necessary. Week after week, these pristine radish bunches serve as our top-sellers, as market customers simply cannot resist the radiant, red vessels of spice and crunch — so meticulously cleaned, bunched, sorted and displayed.
All of this planning, diligence, and attention to detail pays off for us on Saturday mornings, as marketgoers feel the imperceptible draw towards our colorful tables of bounty — overflowing baskets of peas, pristine pints of cherry tomatoes, and heaping piles of greens. Week after week, the visual magnitude of the display is enhanced as more and more veggies reveal themselves ripe for harvest. Week after week, I find myself in the field, or in the kitchen, or at one of my other Saturday morning obligations, thinking: I wonder how Danny and Monica are doing in Point… Hmm, I wonder what our Neenah stand looks like… I’m sure Polly is bossing it up in Appleton; I can’t wait to hear the numbers…
Then, somehow, no time passes, and I find myself again walking down the driveway at Oak Road on Friday afternoon; water jug in tow, ready to join my compadres and companions for yet another week’s harvest, anxious to see which veggies will be joining us for the festivities. Happy July.