Saturday, July 30, 2011
Tomatoes and supporting your local growers
Moving to a small and fairly rural town often time means discovering new things that aren't new at all. I remember the first time I drove thru a typical southern "town square". It was like taking a step back in time. The first time I went to an off the beaten path family run resturant that had a 1 & 3 (1 meat and 3 sides) I was amazed that I had been so satisfied with drive-thru's and chain value meals. Granted both would clog your arteries thoroughly but at least at Teresa's you could do it with wonderful menu items like fried okra, banana puddin' and chicken fried steak.
Another revelation was the U-Pick farm. Being raised in an enviroment where farms and farmers were reserved for picture books or Farm Aid concerts, it was incredible to me that there were places where not only you could connect with family farms, but that you could be apart of the harvest.
This year my wanderings have led me to an especially great U-Pick Farm owned and opperated since the 40's. Payne Farm and Produce has become one of my favorite haunts this Summer. I have to admit, that part of my love of Payne's is that most everything is really cheap. I mean where else can you get juicy Rutgers Tomatoes for .48 cents a lb? I didn't even pick those- they did the work for me. But cost aside, it's just fun to visit this family run farm. To talk about how the beans are comin' along or why my tomatoes haven't turned yet. There in the steamy hot little shed where produce is stored, you can truly connect with those who are eeking out a living growing food in a responsible way.
It's hard work, growing and harvesting food. Everytime I go out and weed my own garden or pick squash at Paynes to put up I have some understanding of how difficult it would be to rely on rain, sun and the strength of your back to make a living. But each day they do it and make it possible for me and many others to enjoy great food grown organically and locally for a fraction of what the local Kroger charges.
Tomorrow I'll be putting up the tomatoes that the Payne family picked for me today. This winter I'll be making spaghetti sauce from those same tomatoes and next Spring I'll look forward to doing it all again, probably while I'm picking some of the greatest strawberries in the county at Payne Farm and Produce. If you are looking for a U-Pick Farm in your area, go to www.pickyourown.com follow the links and it will give you lists of farms near you.