reflections from the southeast PA rural underground

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tomato Saga

It's more like a rush-in than an ease-in situation. Every year the workers secretly pine and dread that gushing forth of small, medium, and large love apples. Red ones, purple ones, green ones (with yellow stripes), brown ones (with orange stripes), pink ones, peach fuzz ones and so on through the long list of heirloom tomatoes that have been planted, hoed, mulched, staked and strung by the end of July. Many hands to make them thrive. Enough water, but not too much. Shudder to think of it. Too much rain. No, no, no that just won't do. C'mon Universe. Send us a line. A small thread to pull us through the faintest crack in the void. Let us get through just one more season with our tiny speck of purpose. Our tomato agenda. Open up just one more of the billions of energy fissures and give us our three months.

Hot. Dry. Disease free. And so many. Another year in the saga that continues to demand, deplete, yet somehow (the sun also rises. . . and how it does) replenish?, the energy of the Sun to all the hands that are painstakingly on deck. This is an all volunteer army mind you. There are no horror stories of bonded workers, indebted and unable to free themselves from tyrant Florida orange growers. This farm pays way better than that, the picker and packer may remind themselves in the 95 degree heat and humidity while groveling over the soil, searching at the bottom of an Black Prince plant to discover the ripe brown fruit wating to be picked just inches from the ground. What is the essential call? Or rather, what is the drive that keeps some of the these humans reporting for tomato duty year after year? Is it familia? The big picture perhaps? Adventure for the seasonal, just- out- of- college agri-Cultural dreamer? What a difference a day makes they say. But what difference is there in the entire month of July when all the days run together in a haze of sun, sweat, mashed tomato juice, green-to-black tar under the nails, slow frenzy, frantic sameness, long push, Mack truck, highway without rest. Pick em', pack em', get em' to the market on time. Small scale farming in a giant way. A Green Giant slicer way to be exact.

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