My birthday was Monday. I spent the day at the F. J. Medina & Sons Farm. Mondays are one of two days a week that Karla or her husband Frankie are on the farm all day and not selling produce at one of seven farmers markets. I had a sense that farming was hard work but after a few hours with Karla, Frankie and their two sons, my education on small family farming had increased by 1000%. There are many more stages to growing a single piece of produce than I had ever imagined.
Stage 1: Seeds are planted in a seed tray and allowed to sprout in one of their hot houses.
Stage 2: Seedlings much be thinned out to give the starter plants more growing room. They are removed from the original container and each one is carefully replanted by hand in an individual cell.
Stage 3: Fields are tilled using a cultivator, which prepares the soil by stirring and pulverizing in careful patterns. This aerates the soil and makes a loose, smooth seedbed and mixes the nutrients evenly throughout the field. Rows are then fertilized. After that, the plastic sheeting and irrigation system is installed. Black plastic is used in the spring to help attract and retain heat, while white plastic is used for the summer. The starter plants are inserted by hand, one at a time.
Stage 4: Growing. Make-shift scarecrows make noise and provide movement to scare of crows.
Stage 5: Harvesting. A few extra workers might be hired but for the most part, everything is done by 5-8 people.
Stage 6: The field has been plowed to remove the plastic sheeting and irrigation system from the field so that it can rest.
Stage 7: Storage options are limited but necessary since the truck can only hold so much at once. Almost everything is harvested and transported immediately. Onions, garlic and potatoes are kept outdoors in a sheltered area that is covered on three sides. There is also an outdoor refrigeration unit about 14' x 40' x 8' for delicate produce like tomatoes, berries and squash.
Stage 8: Transporting the produce to the farmers market. The drive to each market can take up to 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Karla frequently wakes at 3am to load up the truck with as much produce as it can hold, drive to the market, and set up the stand before customers start arriving.
Every time I’ve seen Karla at the West End Farmers Market, she is always cheerful, funny and nice. For someone who works 12 hours a day, 6-7 days a week, this is nothing short of amazing. My appreciation for the Medina family and everything they do to provide fresh produce for us has increased immensely.
More information about the F. J. Medina & Sons Farm is available on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fjmedinandsonsfarm.