Twice a year at Terra Firma we go through a major, grinding crop shift from the green leafy vegetables that love cool weather to the fruits and fruiting vegetables that love the dry warmth of summer, and back again.
You get to experience this shift in your kitchen to a certain extent. It is happening right now, today, in the box you are bringing home.
On the farm the transition is a bit more involved. Every crop we grow has certain specifications involved in harvest and packing it. Fruiting crops need to be harvested at a certain size and ripeness, into the appropriate boxes or crates, in the appropriate manner. Damaged or rotten fruit needs to be discarded. Many of the crops are delicate to the touch and need to be handled gently from harvest through delivery.
Bunched greens and roots like kale, beets, and carrots have their own specifications. Leaves or roots must be the right size when harvested while smaller ones need to be left to grow, and damaged ones not included in bunches. Harvesters must make uniform and correctly sized bunches. Loose greens like arugula and spinach need to be carefully cut at the correct size, and weeds need to be removed. Broccoli heads need to be the right size and the stems cut a certain length, not too short and not too long.
Of course, all of this work needs to be done quickly and efficiently — essentially without thinking. It takes 12-18 stems of kale to make a bunch; 50 or so green beans to make a pound. Your hands and eyes have to do this work without consulting your brain.
We don’t expect our employees to know how to pick and pack every item we are harvesting on the farm at any given moment. During each season, we have dedicated crews or individuals who harvest particular crops. For example, just four people harvested all the sweet corn, melons and watermelons on the farm this summer. Two people picked all the peaches.
So it is that after spending most of six months harvesting summer crops, we almost always have a few issues when we switch to fall and winter ones. Bunches may be too small, or poorly made (tying a twist tie is an art in itself). You may get a few leaves that are damaged.
Pattern recognition and muscle memory take a little time to get established, even when you’ve done a task numerous times in the past but not lately.
Our semi-annual Farm Remodeling is almost complete, at least the part that you get to see. We just have to get a few details worked out, and are trying to make the transition as painless as possible for you.