Our newest helper, Nikki, was facing quite the dilemma. Shortly after she’d begun harvesting tomatoes one morning, her pants ripped. Now, rips aren’t unusual in this line of work – we do so much squatting, kneeling and bending, no pair of pants can be expected to hold up to such punishment for long. The problem was, Nikki’s tear was in a most unfortunate place. Rather than delve into too much detail, let’s just say she wasn’t overly eager to advertise what color underwear she’d chosen to put on that day.

At the first sign of fabric separation on that fateful morn, Nikki went immediately to her car for the extra pair of pants she’d brought with her…only to discover the zipper broken, a wardrobe malfunction even more egregious than the current tear. Deciding an open fly was no better than what she was dealing with already, she went back to work. With each movement, the rip widened. She feared that by morning’s end, her pants would consist of only a waistband and one leg.

When she told me about it – and after I was able to stop laughing – I promised I’d look through my dresser to see if I could find some pants that would fit her. I confess, I was doubtful. Nikki and I aren’t anywhere near the same size.

As it happened, however, I came upon the Stewie pants. Dana gifted me these marvelous pants a few years ago, after I told her the story of stopping at a Walgreens one day and noticing a man wearing a pair of pajama pants covered with the image of Stewie from “The Family Guy” cartoon. I’d been so impressed with his fashion sense (and in turn, so was Farmer John after I repeated the story to him) that Dana gave both John and me a pair for Christmas. (So did Mary, except she gave us flannel for winter wear. It’s crucial to have Stewie pants for all seasons.)

Lucky for Nikki, these pants are elasticized and fitted with a drawstring – the perfect combination to enable a smaller person to borrow the pants of a bigger one.

Nice, huh?

It was particularly important that Nikki be properly panted that day, considering all the tomatoes ready for harvest. As it occurs every year around this time, we’re inundated with entirely more ripe tomatoes than we can possibly sell at our farm stands (although we do appreciate how hard our incredible customers try to accommodate!). Once we’ve double-stacked every plastic crate at our disposal with tomatoes,

and find we have almost that many more left over, we know it’s time to wholesale. In the past, we’ve counted on the Gateway Whole Foods Market to take as many off our hands as we’ve cared to deliver to them. For years, all it took was a quick phone call.

So it came as a bit of a shock when, after making that annual call to the produce department’s team leader, we found out they no longer accept delivery at the individual store locations. In order to sell to Whole Foods now, we’d have to drive our shipment to the central warehouse deep in the southest of South Austin, after first calling the warehouse to find out what steps need be taken to “get into their system.”

We respectfully declined. Well, maybe “respectfully” is a little strong…but we did indeed decline. We haven’t the time nor the inclination to muddle through computer programs and travel so many miles from home only to deliver to them two or three times per year.

Thank goodness for farmer friends. Turns out, some of our favorite local farmers are yet to harvest a big tomato crop of their own – although they will soon – and they were happy to buy a couple hundred pounds of ours to supplement their farm stand. (We, in turn, enjoy being able to buy their excess produce when ours is lacking.) So while Stewie-clad Nikki and all the others harvested ripe tomato after ripe tomato after ripe tomato, I holed up in the computer room weighing and boxing the extras.

Even at that, we knew we’d have yet more to sell. This time, we turned to a small local grocer, Wheatsville Co-op. They’ve been kind of our alternate go-to guys in the past, secondary to Whole Foods. After their first sample of a mere 50 pounds of our tomatoes the week prior, they were keen for more.

Admittedly, Farmer John and I aren’t crazy about wholesaling. We get only half the price we garner retail, and retail price is what enables us to continue farming. But occasionally there’s no other choice, and it’s better to wholesale than no sale at all. Still, we’re a little sad that our tomatoes will never again occupy the shelves of the Whole Foods produce department.

But it’s kind of like pants. Obviously, you prefer to wear the pair you left home in, the ones you put on in the morning and felt sure they’d be all you need. Yet when things go awry and even your backup plan backfires on you,

all you can really strive for is to handle the situation with grace and style.

* * *
Here’s what we’ll be stylin’ at the farm stand this Wednesday:

LOADS of tomatoes – big slicer Bella Rosa, juicy Early Girl and bits of other varieties; the first pints of cherry tomatoes (don’t know yet whether we’ll have several, or just a few); freshly dug new potatoes – Yukon Gold and Red Lasoda; super sweet Yellow Granex onions; heirloom “Rattlesnake” green beans; bunches of chard; bunches of basil; fresh elephant garlic; purple and golden beets; white bell peppers; the first of the colored bell peppers (mostly golden); and whatever else we find ready for harvest.

Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
Farm stands:
Saturdays 9:00-1:00 in Jonestown on FM 1431 at the blinking yellow light; and
Wednesdays 10:00-2:00 in NW Austin at the Asian American Center, 11713 Jollyville Road (1-1/2 blocks north of the intersection of Jollyville and Duval)