I’ve been laughed at, lectured to, berated and insulted over the price of a tomato. I sell my tomatoes by the piece and sometimes by the level of perfection.
I don’t claim to know a lot about the business of farming. It’s a learning curve that never stops swerving. Sometimes a customer will tell me for how long they have been coming to my farm stand and how much it has changed. It has taken me 15 years to go from a closet-size, self-serve operation to what one could call a normal farm stand: a converted hay wagon with a few electric-spool outposts. It’s no longer self-checkout either, but my mantra remains the same: Everything I sell, we grew—the dirt and I—in Sagapo nack. I am not interested in marketing anything else from anywhere else. What would be the point?
In farming as in any economy, it is possible to make your mark with high-end produce and sell the baby gold beets as if they were just that. Or you can go the quantity route. I guess the potato farmer in me wants to feed the masses. I want to talk by the bushel and wholesale to restaurants and establish the kind of farm that customers can rely on and not just be surprised by. This means I cannot run out of things, which means I mustn’t miss any windows for planting and I must successfully mitigate the conditions of the season as it unfolds. I walked the rows for blight, I walked the rows for blossom-end rot and now as I walk the rows to harvest them, day after day, half bent like Quasimodo, looking for the first glow of color, deep in those vines, my wish is that we all shared in this knowledge. And that no one would forget June had two nights when the temperature was just 45.
Instead, people have been waiting all year to have their first tomatoes of the summer and they are firmly in the sweaty July moment, shocked and not happy that I am sold out, and it’s not even 11 in the morning. Too many people think vegetables are like electricity and you flip a switch and they are there. I try to explain that tomato season is like a blizzard, a ripe one like a lone snowflake, here and there, until it’s an eventual tomato whiteout.
“When’s that?” they ask impatiently, “later today?”