Every August, I remember back-to-school notebooks and binders, stinging hot car seats, long picnics with books and frisbees in the park, chlorine-scented swimsuits, pitchers of sun tea…. and this August adds a new print to my August collection: the North Star fruit share.
I first heard about the fruit share almost a year ago, when I applied to work here. I’m pretty sure that my thoughts then were, “They distribute shares to over 700 families? How is that possible for a small farm?” And when we started picking fruit here in June and I became aware of the North Star standard for fruit (VERY high), the fruit share seemed all the more impossible.
The fruit share began this week, and I have news: it is a reality. Those of you who get a North Star fruit share are nodding your heads vigorously– it is real! It is amazing! It is here! For those of you who are not one of those lucky 700 families, I will explain…..
For 12 or 15 weeks (shareholders can choose when they sign up), we pack a variety of different fruits from our orchard into bags and deliver those bags to different pick-up locations, where our shareholders collect their bags each week. This week, for example, one group of shareholders got 5 apples, 5 white peaches, 5 yellow peaches, 5 European pears, and two handfuls of plums. The total is 8.5 glorious pounds of fruit. Shareholders can also order extra fruit, which we pack specially for them.
That all sounds pretty simple, right? There are, however, layers of complexity. For example, there are literally hundreds of apple varieties here, and comparable numbers of peach, plum, and pear varieties. We want our shareholders to enjoy that diversity, so each week, one of group of shareholders may get an entirely different collage of fruit than another. We also attend about 5 markets during our busy season (now), so we have to pack specific varieties keeping those markets in mind.
Fruit gets picked almost every day; so our two coolers have to be carefully packed so that new crates of apples don’t block peaches for tomorrow’s market, for example. Each crate is labeled with masking tape and permanent marker: the variety and the date it was picked.
Add more complications: we have a staff of over 10 people. We rotate through farm responsibilities, so each week a new calendar appears on the refrigerator white board, depicting who will pack which share on what day, and who will deliver what share on which day to where. Add to that our individual schedules– a doctor’s appointment here, a day off there– and things get really crazy.
This may seem like madness and mayhem. Surprisingly, it is not. Lisa is an organizational mastermind, and she and Ike seem to have mind-to-mind communication abilities when it comes to managing the fruit share. Also, the colorful, delectable, dew-covered fruits in that satisfyingly heavy fruit share bag wipe away any potential stress on share-packing days. I am left with a sense of wonder and a dazed appreciation for the magical world of food, and a slight sugar high from peaches, pears, and plums.
May you also taste an Asian pear this week….