***Our farm stands remain closed for the season, but I thought I’d send out an interim blog just to remind you that we’re alive and well, and are working hard at getting ready for the fall. We’re still aiming for either the last week in September or first week in October for our reopening – I’ll send out another note as the time nears. Meanwhile, if you want to take a few minutes to read it, here’s a little story from the farm….

Oddly enough, there was a recent spate of emails showing up in our inbox inquiring whether we had any positions open on the farm. I couldn’t help but be curious why the thought of working on a farm – in August, in Texas – sounded appealing to so many people at the same time…yet whatever the case, we don’t need any more permanent helpers right this minute. Still, things can change unexpectedly, so I wrote back to each of these folks and asked if I could keep their contact information in case we do indeed need someone at a later date. Lucky for us, they all agreed.

One of the applicants took it a step further and asked if we might could use a little volunteer help in the meantime. We don’t usually take volunteers – we often spend so much of our own time showing someone what to do that when all is said and done, about the same amount of work gets accomplished as it would have without the volunteer. But as it happened, we’d also been contacted by another potential volunteer, someone who’s worked on a couple of our friends’ farms as well. We decided to break our no-volunteers rule and get them both down here for a day.

They were enthusiastic helpers, just like one would hope for. It’s a good thing, because in early August the most important chores around the farm involve tearing out old crops to make way for the new ones we’ll soon set into the ground for the fall season. Farmer John immediately got the guys cutting and piling spent cucumber plants from a 400-foot row.

We’d all been avoiding that old row, with its trellised vines all but dead and loaded down with baseball bat-sized cucumbers bleached yellow from the sun. As Mary, Vicky and I watched from the salad sink window as the guys began tackling the mess, I noticed somewhat evil grins on both of the women’s faces. It dawned on me that Mary and Vicky had assumed diving head first into those stinky cucumber plants would have eventually been their job, and they were enjoying this show all the more because of it.

When I told them that I planned to give the volunteers PLENTY of vegetables to take home for their trouble, Mary said she’d happily chip in some of her own stash as well, to make sure they finished. I think she would have relinquished her lunch to them, had it been necessary.

It wasn’t. The guys, for some reason well beyond my comprehension, seemed happy to do it. As they were leaving that day, both of them repeatedly thanked us for “the opportunity.” Whether they’re the types who get true satisfaction from helping others, or whether they simply harbor some sort of heat-related death wish, we may never know.

Now, I’d be remiss not to point out that Mary and Vicky have been doing more than their fair share of cutting out old stinky crops as well. Believe me, they’ve done lots of it (though for the life of me, I can’t recall either of them ever thanking us for it). That very day, in fact, after Farmer John and the volunteers finished the cucumbers and moved on to the old tomato rows, Mary and Vicky stayed one step ahead of them, cutting twine, chopping the plants at their base,

and starting the process of leveraging hundreds of metal t-stakes out of the ground.

We pay Dana, Mary and Vicky for the…ahem…privilege of working here, of course. They came to the farm not as volunteers, but as helpers on the payroll. (And they’re all worth decidedly more than we can afford to pay, so in this case we are the thankful ones.)

I remember early on in our farm career, we took volunteers more frequently. And when we found a particularly good one, we’d offer to start paying that person to become an “official” employee. It seemed that as soon as we did so, and began expecting the person to come to work the same number of hours they’d already been volunteering, he or she suddenly became the most unreliable person on the planet. It’s the strangest phenomenon. We ended up firing one volunteer-turned-employee; another quit shortly after being hired.

We’ve asked our latest volunteers to come again a day or two this week, to help move hoop houses and get ready for more fall planting. Again, they both seem eager. This time, though, we’re going to pay them for the hours they work – we feel they deserve it – and I’ve sent them each an email to let them know.

I wonder if they’ll show up.


I’ll be back in touch soon with the planned date of our reopening!
Angel Valley Organic Farm