Farmer John isn’t exactly a hoarder…but man, he’s close. I tend to want to throw out anything that gets in my way — or just looks at me funny — so my perspective is rather skewed, yet when someone insists there’s no reason to get rid of a “perfectly good” shirt like this,

he might be on the verge of having a teensy case of separation issues.

Out in the farm, you simply must be able to say goodbye. For folks who aren’t used to it, the sight of dead vegetables tossed aside and strewn between the rows is a tough one to overlook. We’ve had new employees in the past who, on their first or second day at the farm, wanted to go back and scoop up all the worm-ridden, aphid-infested rejects to lug home and salvage somehow. We convince them there’s plenty of produce tucked away in containers in our walk-in cooler ready for the taking by everyone who works here — imperfect “uglies” not nice enough for market, yet not nearly so disgusting as the stuff out in the rows.

Worse still is when visitors come. John and I have turned to find people gathering half-rotted tomatoes, fruit that had been discarded a day or two prior. It’s hard to understand, I suppose, how we could possibly throw so many tomatoes to the ground that would be “perfectly good” once the scalded/wormy/insect-sucked portions were cut off.

Time is the reason. Unlike carrying in a dozen perfect and not so perfect tomatoes from a backyard plot, we deal in cartfuls. Time is of the essence and we never seem to have enough of it. Certainly not enough to carve off the bad spots, so we’re forever pitching tomatoes, eggplants, squashes…you name it.

Time is also a big consideration when the first major cold front of the fall is bearing down on the farm. November is the most prolific autumn month for us — cool weather crops are abundant, while we’re still enjoying great harvests from plants that prefer warmer temps. So when faced with the prospect of weather cold enough to kill those heat-loving crops and possibly damage the others, we must decide which ones have to be sacrificed.

Early last week, we were once again forced to choose. After some discussion and a good deal of hand wringing, it was agreed the eggplants had to go.

What a shame. This had been the best late-season eggplant crop, probably ever. And because the fall peppers were right beside them, and because the tall t-posts we use to support the plants make it so difficult to cover, our red and yellow bells were scheduled to be placed on the chopping block too.

John completed what would be the last fall harvest of “summer” squash that afternoon,

and come the following morning, they were goners.

We had planned to sacrifice what was left of the fall tomato crop, as well. In keeping with this commitment, we asked everyone to stay late the afternoon before the freeze in order to harvest every pick-able tomato they could find. The great folks who work here are nothing if not thorough, and by early evening they’d filled 15 crates — double-stacked — with red, pink and slightly pink tomatoes.

[Mr. Rooster is seen here, guarding them with his life.]

That proved to be too much for Farmer Hoarder…er, John. Even after this harvest, our small crop of fall tomato plants remained fairly loaded with green fruit. He couldn’t stand the thought of leaving them exposed to the elements. That night, after almost three straight hours spent covering nearly the entire farm (most of it in pitch dark), he draped the tomato rows. He did the same with the peppers after recognizing he couldn’t bear to part with those either.

Once he’d protected all he could protect, he came inside and collapsed on his chair, exhausted. He wasn’t much perkier the next night when he had to do it all over again after daytime breezes blew most of the covers off. He set his alarm for 3 a.m. so he could go back out and start irrigation running under the tomatoes and peppers as an extra buffer against the cold, only to discover it was still 49 degrees. Clouds held fast overhead and we didn’t freeze.

He hadn’t needed to cover anything that night. He could have relaxed all evening instead. This is what Farmer John does, though. He may have a little trouble sacrificing some of the crops, but he hasn’t a second thought about sacrificing himself.

Maybe I should surprise him with a new shirt or two, to replace the “perfectly good” ones he sometimes wears now. And if he wants to keep the ones riddled with holes, I won’t argue.

I’m thinking he deserves it.

* * *

We have oodles for your Thanksgiving holiday! For the Wednesday stand this week, we’ll be bringing:

Lots of fall tomatoes (I know that doesn’t scream “Thanksgiving” but they’ll be great on those leftover turkey sandwiches)! Plus: Red butterhead lettuce, Red leaf lettuce, butternut squash, kabocha squash (great in savory or sweet dishes), spaghetti & acorn squash, cauliflower, green onions, sweet white turnips, bulk purple and golden beets, bunches of chard, Dinosaur kale, some curly kale, Brussels greens, bags of arugula, yellow bell peppers, Cubanelle peppers, kohlrabi, pink radishes and watermelon radishes, fennel, salad mixes, cilantro, and some of this and that.

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)