On the job, Alma discovers the beauty of heirlooms and how an organic philosophy affects the standard for “perfect” produce.
An annual trip to an heirloom festival, and KMK farmer Kyle Reynold’s affinity for experimenting keep the fields at KMK farms brimming with the unique and unusual heirloom varieties that remind produce lovers of the depth and beauty lovingly grown food can posses.
With more than a decade of experience in vegetable farming, Alma Gordillo has had a hand in the harvesting, packing, and quality control processes at KMK Farms for about two years now. She takes orders from local restaurants, keeps an eye on all the KMK locations (KMK has five little farm plots that add up to a total of 85 acres of organic veggies and fruit), tells the crews where to harvest, packs orders, and runs a KMK farmers’ market stall.
Before coming on board at KMK, Alma spent ten years doing quality control for a conventional vegetable farm. The standards for a perfect piece of produce that she was used to working with at the conventional farm didn’t translate to the weed-filled fields of an organic farm.
In the world of organic produce, perfection is subjective. Tomatoes tell the tale. Soon after she started, Alma got a call from Kyle asking her how the tomatoes were looking and she was hesitant to answer.
“Because I had never seen an heirloom tomato, I said, ‘Oh, they kind of look deformed’,” she remembered, laughing as she recounted her first encounters with the bulbous, creatively shaped KMK heirlooms. “I was always used to seeing the Beefsteak and the Roma tomatoes, and they are so [classically] perfect. I didn’t know what a perfect heirloom tomato looked like.”
For Alma, learning to identify a faultless heirloom tomato pushed “perfection” out of its factory mold and into a more interpretive light. The new definition was hinged on freshness and taste.
“If you go to the store and you get a perfect red tomato, it doesn’t have the same taste as an organic tomato. Our tomatoes are so sweet, and if you go to the store and you buy one of those tomatoes, it just has the redness on the outside and the perfect tomato shape, but you’re not going to get the nice, juicy, flavorful taste,” Alma said, noting that she didn’t come into organics expecting to see a difference, but the taste and health factors of working in a pesticide-free environment have won her over.
Heirloom varieties don’t often produce as heavy a crop as hybrids or newer cultivars, but when it comes to the wow-factor, you can’t beat them. Of all the summer produce, the variety and color of the eggplant and heirloom tomatoes is the most obviously stunning.
“Last year, the eggplant looked so beautiful. We had the Japanese, the American, the Italian, the white eggplant, the purple stripe that was really, really nice,” Alma said with a note of true admiration in her voice. “When we are harvesting that eggplant and taking it to Abundant Harvest, I just enjoy seeing all the different colors coming in, and with the tomatoes too. I think the customers like to see that too—all the different varieties that we have.”
That quality of color and beauty contributes to the farmer’s fun and satisfaction in the field, and translates to the table, adding a touch of je ne sais quoi organic perfection to the over all eating experience.
Read more summer stories in our digital magazine the Abundant Harvest Organics Seasonal Update