I knew from listening to John talk on the phone that the person at the other end of the line was asking for a personal tour of the farm. We usually politely decline those requests, mostly because we’re generally too busy farming to take that kind of time out of our work days. (The fact that we have snakes, spiders and multiple tripping hazards throughout the farm also factors greatly into the no-personal-tours equation.) Yet soon enough I could hear John wavering. Turned out he’d discovered the caller was a farmer himself, from the Waco area, and wanted to bring his mom down here to see our place as his Mother’s Day present to her.

Who could possibly say no to that? It didn’t hurt, either, that the farmer confessed he and his family were fairly new to this business and had been following our farm for a while (through the magic of the Inter-Net). He told John that they’ve made it one of their goals to attain to the standards we practice on our farm.

Flattery will get you everywhere. John invited them to come visit the Saturday afternoon before Mother’s Day.

The young farmer, Brandon, gave John the address of his family farm’s website, which we took a peek at right away. There’s no photo of Brandon on the site — only of his parents. Or who we were to assume were his parents. When we thought about it a little, we realized the person who called here might not have been who he said he was at all. What if he was a serial killer? A serial killer who lays claim to random websites as he travels the country sweet-talking small family farmers into letting him come by? And here we’d given him directions to come to our place on a Saturday — a day when none of our other people are here working. We’d be sitting ducks!

Or another frightening scenario: If it were indeed true that a tour of our farm was Brandon’s gift to his mother, imagine the responsibility on our shoulders! The only way they’d seen our farm was through the photos I include on our website and post on this blog or Facebook, and obviously I’m not going to put anything too unflattering out there. What if Mom had her hopes up really high and then ended up disappointed? On Mother’s Day weekend!

To top it off, while on the phone that first fateful evening, Brandon told John he’d just planted an entire acre of okra. Knowing that Brandon’s family farm is as small as ours — and as it is with all new farms, the only help they have is the occasional volunteer — John’s immediate reply was “Wow, that’s going to come back to bite you.”

He says this to a possible serial killer. You know what short fuses those kind of people have.

Still, I really can’t fault John for his abrupt response. An acre is a whole lot of okra. We currently have four 200-foot beds growing.

They’re a bit spread out so I can’t get them all in one photo, but according to my calculations (via the Google, as found on the Inter-Net) it would take 54 of these beds to fill an acre. And Brandon, with limited help from his parents (who both have jobs outside of the farm) in addition to only intermittent assistance from volunteers, plans to pick that much okra every day.

Harvesting okra, by the way, is not a terribly pleasant task. For one thing, the leaves carry with them a serious itch. To make matters worse, when okra begins producing, the plants are rather short.

When harvesting okra at this stage, a person is forced to dive in head-first.

So not only does it irritate the skin more than any other crop on the farm, it breaks your back as well. For these reasons we make sure at least two, preferably three people harvest okra together. Even a measly four 200-foot rows are too many to ask only one person to pick.

Granted, the plants grow quickly. Soon enough the okra harvest is a stand-up job. Yet while that’s much easier on the back, the itch factor remains. Even if someone offered me a free lifetime supply of calamine lotion, I’d never consider for a moment harvesting an entire acre of okra.

As you might have figured out by now, Brandon wasn’t a serial killer. In fact, Farmer John and I had such a wonderful afternoon with him and his mom, we were reluctant to bid farewell.

We hope to get a chance to spend some time with Brandon and mom Pam again. We’re thinking it might be smart to wait until okra season is over though, just in case. Brandon may not be a serial killer right now, but harvesting an acre of okra day after day after day (after day) could put anybody over the edge.

* * *

For Wednesday’s stand, we’ll have:

Oodles of tomatoes (they’re still coming in like mad!) — big slicers, juicy Italian “Bolseno” tomatoes, all-around good Early Girls, low acid pink and yellow tomatoes — plus three kinds of cherry tomatoes; tomatillos; lots of zucchini, Zephyr and yellow squash; three varieties of eggplant; bunches of basil; sweet Yellow Granex and Red Creole onions; Cubanelle “frying” peppers; scads of sweet red and yellow bell peppers; butternut squash, acorn squash and spaghetti squash from Sand Creek Farm; the first bit of Asian cucumbers from our latest crop; and, of course, okra (since we do NOT have an acre of it growing [phew!], we still don’t have tons of okra yet…but we have lots more than we did last Wednesday and will continue bringing larger quantities every week!).

Thanks!
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)

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