Today I drove up the side of a mountain to buy blackheart sweet cherries for the food co-op I manage. We live on pretty flat land. But head north up Highway 52 and the terrain changes quickly. I went to Ayers Orchard in Cana, Va. I turned right off the highway and drove by homes and farms as the road grew more narrow and curvy. The views were wonderful, everything lush and green. Obviously roses grow well at the higher elevation. I passed several impressive rose gardens in full bloom.
But not too much viewing or the road might disappear. After a series of left turns, all marked by Ayers Orchard signs, I arrived at my destination, loaded the cherries and headed back downhill. The day was overcast and I could enjoy the fresh air. I drove to our assembly building and thought about what I had learned from this career.
I had plenty of time to think while I filled clamshells with dark, plump cherries. Until I had this job, I never knew the plastic hinged containers that hold produce were called clamshells. I’ve met some wonderful farmers who are working very hard to make a living out of providing local food. Some have “real jobs” and farm in the evenings and on weekends because they love it. Others have taken a leap of faith to farm full time. One of our suppliers is even named “Leap of Faith Farm.”
I took one of those leaps in agreeing to manage the co-op this year. I prayed about it an decided I owed it to those hard working farmers to try one more year, whether there was enough money to pay me or not. I prayed for growth and new members and as often happens had my prayers answered in a way I never thought possible. Yes our regular subscribers are growing slowly, but in April I was contacted by Lowes Foods to furnish 100, then 140 boxes of produce to sell in area stores as the “Carolina Crate.” Wow. What a blessing and what a challenge. Our farmers didn’t know this when they were planting in March so–off to the phone and the farmers markets. In the past week I have had cucumbers, not had cucumbers, had a call about squash and found more cucumbers. Then there was the sweet potato man, who was not particularly sweet. He did not want to sell his sweet potatoes all at once, he would rather go to the market. I needed more cabbage, I found more cabbage, the cabbage split, I found more cabbage and so on. But we are all excited. This is a tremendous opportunity for local food and we do have great local food.
Tomorrow we pack the boxes. I hope the Lowes customers like them. They will be packed with care and faith and everything good.