Winter Squash and Their Farmers
The following is an excerpt from the Crop Stories Winter Squash issue. Note: Simone gave birth to Noah, pictured above, in the winter of 2014.
Simone shifts the weight of her pregnant belly from one foot slowly to another, stepping between squash leaves into grass mounds that hopefully aren't hiding squash. She's careful not to step on the produce.
Nathan is equally tender-footed. Their eyes search the ground for glimpses of yellow, tan and green flesh. When found, the mature fruit detaches easily from the vine, and Simone wedges the oblong shape between her elbow and side like a football and continues hunting.
To both show how tentacle-like squash vines can be, and prove the vine had been cleared of fruit in total, Nathan picked up a vine and raised it high above his head. The last, young buds peeked out of his left hand and the vine wound down and around curling up to his right. A fat leaf flapped on the brim of his hat.The vine terminated some 15 feet away in the grass, but we couldn't see its end.
Tending the squash patch required only spurts of this kind of effort. Compared to the monotony of plucking grape tomatoes from the vine, it's almost adventurous, a search.
Candy Roasters and their ilk are harvested a basket or two at a time and stored in the farm's cement storage bunker for months. Simone or Nathan pick out a new grouping each week to be cleaned up and readied for a weekend market.
The relative security of raising storage crops is part of the larger plan to diversify farm income. The most involved link in that plan involves a commitment to red winter wheat, a mill, and a branded DaySpring Farms flour product. Like winter squash, wheat and flour can bring in money in the off-season. It's all, as Nathan sees it, a step in their evolution from green thumbs to a family business.
"I often say that I'm a pretty good gardener, but I'm not a good farmer yet," Nathan said. "The difference is a gardener is able to tend crops well; a farmer is able to run a business well. That's where most of the change and growth for me personally as a business operator has come. It's to be a better farmer, a better steward of the resources available to me and to make the absolute most out of the least. That's a philosophy we have carried through."