I have a wheelbarrow of cucumbers waiting to become pickles. I have about 30 lbs of sweet, fuzzy, drippy, baseball-sized peaches sitting on top of the cucumbers. A friend loaded me up with about 10 garlic heads yesterday, the chard is, unbelievably, still producing in the sweltering July-ness of Texas. Plus, the grasshoppers have descended heavy enough to make us guard for the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse.
No wonder I haven't blogged.
Summer is in full swing here and I am going to bang the drum once again for local farmers.
A study just released by Virginia Tech found that if each household in the State of Virginia spent just $10 per week on local food - squash, milk, pork, fruit or whatever, it would add $1.65 billion - that's billion with a B - to the State's economy. Holy smokes - how many jobs would that create?
If that doesn't convice you to stop by your local Farmer's Market this week with a ten in hand, here's a story:
Across the street from the Kirk Ranch is a roughly 25-acre field farmed by some friends of ours - a couple in their 70's, named Charles and Carolyn. For decades, the two of them have grown squash and cukes on this land, harvested, sorted and driven this totally fresh, never refrigerated produce to the Dallas Farmers Market. Since 1941 DFM has sold local, wholesale produce in South Dallas. The farmers market, as a trend, has clearly taken off, with the number of markets more than doubling in the US in the last 10 years, but for DFM it's not a trend - it's old hat!
The chefs show up at dawn every day in the summer and buy their produce direct from the farmer - it is an elegant win-win situation for hardworking chefs and farmers both. Charles and Carolyn have been taking their produce there for DECADES. This requires them to get up in the middle of the night, drive 120 miles to Dallas, arrive before dawn for a good spot in the local vendors shed and be ready for the chefs and other early birds.
Ranch Boss asked Charles yesterday when and where they sleep - do they get a room or something. Charles, who is a hilarious character anyway, said , "Heck no, you sleep right there with your vegetables."
So let's review.
A couple in their 70's gets out into the field in the morning, harvests squash until noon then washes, sorts and boxes it well into the afternoon, completes all their other normal chores - which for Charles probably means spending the balance of the day on the tractor mowing hay. Then they load up at midnight to drive to Dallas to sell vegetables at dawn. They repeat this procedure as long as there is squash.
As you are taking your second coffee break of the day, stretching a little from a morning of answering e-mails, I'd like you to pause and calmly consider Charles and Carolyn. Consider how hard farmers actually work to grow and sell food. What's sad about this story is there is a glut of squash on the DFM right now- maybe because of all the rain we got, I don't know, but Charles told Ranch Boss they had to bring a bunch home. All that work for nothing. Ugh.
So this is a battle cry!
I implore you shop your local farmers first! Sure you can buy squash at thesame time you buy toothpaste and charcoal and that's super convenient - but just remember somebody busted their tail to grow that squash and if they can't support their families doing it (as all the farming trends suggest) they will quit.
Then what? This isn't a small problem.
We at the Kirk Ranch are awaiting news about a Texas Department of Ag grant called "The Young Farmer Grant" designed to help young people get back to farming. Think about Charles, can you blame twenty-somethings for their reluctance to go all in on a farm?
Now of course, Charles and Carolyn are an absolute delight to be around, they have farmed their whole lives and Charles is one of the happiest guys I know. I can't imagine trying to keep up with his 1000mph lifestyle and I'm half his age. So certainly there are joys inherent to a life spent outside in the sunshine and air with plants. But don't kid yourself, it's hard work.
So make a day of it, take your kids to your local farmers market and spend some money there. Texas is crazy ripe and delicious right now.
See for yourself! July 13, 2010