Well, I’ve been having a lot of fun the last few weeks. A friend has a really well-equipped boat, years of experience, and a little condo in Sitka, Alaska. Silvers were running and we all brought home 100 pounds of fillet each, plus some halibut; what a hoot. Friends on a boat out in the ocean catching fish in the rain; I don’t know when that would have gotten old, but it would sure be fun to find out sometime. You could see why our fishermen in Santa Barbara just want to keep at it.
That was Thursday through Sunday, got home about midnight, and at 1:00 Monday afternoon, Carol and I were on a plane to Marseille. So their fruit growing region in France is called Provence (pronounced Provánce) and has the Rhone River flowing through it. If our heartland is Indiana, and England’s is the Cotswolds, France’s is Provánce I should think. Little stone-built, narrow-streeted villages; each having a dynamite bakery. When we got back, Mark Fink, our mechanically creative welder just said: “Looks like you ate well!” They have very small farms where people have lived and worked for millennia. Amazingly, they grow wonderful fruit out of very rocky soil.
Our purpose, you’ll recall, was to try to find additional later maturing varieties of exquisite flavor that we could use to extend our season. Oh my goodness, we sure enough did. They’ll be coming through customs this winter, and be planted here at the observation nursery this spring. We’ll watch ’em 2015, 16 and 17 and if they do the same here, we could be planting these later varieties in 2018 and you could be eating them in 2020.
We farmers (especially orchardists and cattlemen) take a very long view towards the future. In this case, while I should see it, it’s really the next generation that will truly benefit if we get it right, or suffer if this is the wrong track.
The track we’ve been on—appearance and durability—I believe has cost our stone fruit industry considerably. The problem is, we don’t sell to people who eat our product, we sell to people who sell to people who eat our product and universally, their three highest priorities have been durability, (it gets to their distribution center) durability, (it makes it through check-out; ring-through) and appearance (the store display looks good).
In the past, flavor and durability have been at odds, so we’ve been forced to produce what retailers; not consumers want. With AHO, we have a paradigm shift; accountability directly to the co-producer vs. a retailer. More importantly, we have immediate, direct communication so we know what real organic consumers want.
So Uncle Vern, what do Abundant Harvest co-producers want that’s different from supermarket customers? It takes a few months for newbies, but the answer is organic adventure. New flavors, textures, and recipes coupled with value. Your supermarket customer clings to boredom—bagged lettuce, cardboard tomatoes and bananas—hey, it’s safe. But they don’t know about the rutabaga mash, or what a real field-grown tomato tastes like. A ship tied up in port is very safe, but ah the joy of the wind and stars and that new land just across the water!