Erin Brethauer

Waiting for a bright day

Posted in Farming in the Blood, North Carolina by erinbrethauer on July 31, 2009

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It’s hard to tell who’s more eager for sunshine to hit the fields at Cane Creek Valley Farm: the farmers Jeremy and Amanda Sizemore, or the heavy green heirloom tomatoes that are hanging from the vines.

“I can’t believe the rain’s been holding out for this long,” says Jeremy Sizemore Friday morning around 10:30 a.m. as he walks along the rows looking for the ripened heirlooms, “It’s awesome.”

This is only the second day the Sizemore’s have been able to pick their tomatoes because of the constant rains.  Yesterday, they picked 30 boxes worth of heirlooms and today they got to 40 boxes until the rain forced them to pack up and head to home base to pack 56 CSA boxes.

“Last year at this time we were two weeks into picking,” says Jeremy, “I didn’t figure we’d have these plants because of all the rain.  I kept spraying.  That’s the only reason they’re still here.”

Because they run an organic farm, the Sizemore’s are limited in what they can do to protect their tomato plants from blights brought on by the heavy summer rains.  Mostly they can use organically approved sprays and then hope for the best.

The tomatoes now are so ready to be picked that they are weighing down the rows and, in some areas, causing rows to fall over into the mud.  Jeremy and his childhood friend Shannon Byrd pick up some stakes and a rock and set to work fixing the fallen plants.

“We’re doing this cave-man style,” muses Jeremy who forgot his hammer but found a nice flat rock to pound down the stakes.

Picking Beans til dark

Posted in Farming in the Blood, North Carolina, Uncategorized by erinbrethauer on July 14, 2009

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From the ‘Farming in the Blood’ series I’m working on:

Honley and Alma Etherton rarely sit down when work remains, especially when the fields of their Madison County farm are lush with vegetables. But after 47 years together working the land — and nine hours of picking beans on a recent Tuesday morning — they need a break and some cool air.

They set down eight half-bushel baskets, step inside their home and lean back into their easy chairs in front of the air conditioning.

“This sure does feel good,” sighs Alma Etherton.

But the day is not done. They picked three rows that are 300 feet long, but 75 feet remain. After a short rest, Honley grabs empty baskets while Alma dons a sun hat and walks to the spot where they left off.

“There aren’t many 66-year-old women you would find doing this work,” muses Honley Etherton. With the bean row between them, they sit on camping stools to save their backs as they pick.

They sell some of the half-runners at a roadside market and in Marshall, but Alma Etherton keeps four bushels for canning.

After adding another 20 minutes to nearly five decades in the fields, they leave the rest of the row for tomorrow.