From the Fields - Thaddeus
Tomatoes are a force of nature that require focus every month of the year. When the harvest is done before the rains arrive, we need to know which fields will house next year’s crop so that we can adequately prepare the land for a planting of cover crop that is early enough to be tilled into the ground in time for the spring planting.
As the cover crop grows and the hills turn green with the winter, small tomato seeds are sown into the protection of the greenhouse just after the New Year. Tomatoes, originally of tropic origin, can’t handle one degree below freezing, so we wait until we are confident the last frost has come and gone before we pull the little plants out of the greenhouse and tuck them into the soil where they will battle the elements with little control from their farmer.
Tomatoes grow slowly in the spring while the hills are still lush with green grass. The tomato plants drill their roots deeper and deeper into the soil. Then summer slowly arrives, a day or two at a time of warm weather. The hills begin to lose their lush, green look. The oak trees darken up a shade, and the tomatoes grow like weeds.
Spring settles back in, temperatures cool and maybe a drizzle of rain revives the grasses on the hills, gasping for their lives. This dance happens and then a week of “summer” weather arrives as it did last week on our farm. The tomatoes shoot up, and this year, we are thankful to have the stakes in on time. The crew escorts the tomatoes vines against gravity and toward the sun on the support of the temporary metal stakes and string system we have perfected.
The focus on growing the tomatoes is huge. I walk through the fields letting my hands brush along the sticky tomato plants, their tiny fuzz easily visible in the sun. Kneeling down in the soil, I admire the little, yellow flowers that are the beginning of the fruit, which will grow to mark the finale of summer in Capay. My hands are covered in tomato musk, a greenish / yellow layer that finds its way into the crevices of my fingerprints and nails. The smell is unmistakable – tomato.
Putting my hands to the my nose, I breathe in the fragrant smell and stop for the first time to look around and enjoy the army of stakes neatly put into the ground and the rows of tomatoes standing in formation like soldiers in a drill formation. It is only then that I notice the hills are no longer green; they are completely golden. The warm weather that pushed the tomatoes so fast painted the backdrop of the hills the golden summer color that will hang with us through the season.