Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Little Tribute, Our Frist Year, and A BIG Thank You

A Little Tribute
Seven years ago on Thanksgiving Day an article by Laura Muha, entitled "Harvest of Compassion" made it's way into the Star Ledger.  Her story, is well written and thoughtful...a tribute to the final harvest after my Dad's passing that September....however it is an article that has haunted me ever since it ran...but we'll get to that a little later. 

After a brief introduction Muha writes, "The story that follows is the story of the final harvest of a farm family that has tilled the soil of Burlington County for 75 years...But the story does not belong to the Robson's alone.  It is also the story of how other farmers united when misfortune struck, arriving with their combines and their men to make sure the crops in the Robson's fields reached the tables of families none of them ever met...." 

When I think about things that I am most thankful for this year, toward the top of my list is the spirit of helping others and being a good neighbor of which my Dad was a big believer.  So many people came to help us during our time of need because they had once been helped by my Dad....and when I needed help to get things going this year those same friends were ready and willing again.  An example that stood out to me came from the man who owns that property where we park our tractors.  He stopped by the field one day while I was working and when I thanked him for letting us keep our tractors at this house he said, "Oh I'd do anything for Neil."

There are a lot of people who have told me that they think of my Dad and the original farm often.  I can honestly say there wasn't a day that went by this season that I didn't think of him in some form or another.  Whether it be something he said, how delicious his peaches were that my grandma would spend hours slicing on her back porch, his red wing work boots....  I have millions of questions that I will never get answered.  All I can do is guess at what he would do and try to do it....because I feel safe saying and I think there are a lot of people who would agree with me...he was the best farmer I know. 

Our First Year

And now for that one line in the article, "Harvest of Compassion" that never sat well with me...

"Neil's only child, Rosemarie, wasn't interested in farming; a college sophomore, she is studying public relations."


I wish she would have called/emailed/snail ask me how I felt then...maybe things would have been different.  Maybe it wouldn't have taken me so long to get back home.... 

It shocks even me that I am farming.  When I was younger (high school and half of college) I felt this need to follow my incredibly strong wanderlust tendencies.  To wear business suits, high heels...the whole corporate 9 yards.  After leaving for college in South Carolina...then taking a job there after a one year stay in Chicago and back to South Carolina the entire time I felt a great restlessness.  When living in Chicago and working as a Medical Device Sales Rep I traveled a great deal to northern Indiana.  I would stare out the windows at thousand acre fields with a combine roaring and dust flying with envy.  All I could think about was farming.  Growing things and then marketing them.  Almost daily I thought to myself..."What in the hell were you thinking ever leaving the farm!"

During an interview between my Dad and Harry Smith from the CBS Morning Show, Harry said, "There are a lot of easier ways to make a living?"
"Yeah," Robson says, "I just wasn't smart enough to figure that out, I guess."

This makes me laugh because I wasn't smart enough to stay where I belonged.  However I take a little bit of comfort in all of the things I learned along the way through my various sales jobs and from the places I lived.

For the first time I felt fulfilled, settled, and excited for each day.  There is something very gratifying about growing things...anyone who has a garden knows this feeling.  It's a proud moment to pick the seasons very first tomato. 

Of coarse this year wasn't with out its share of stress, lack of sleep and small emotional breakdowns.  This clip from my favorite movie Julie & Julia depicts these episodes quite well...

Sitting here thinking about everything the farm did this year I think:
A. We did it! and
B. I am clinically insane for putting so much on the plate (seemed like an appropriate thing to say since it's Thanksgiving)

We did 5 tailgate markets and Buying Club deliveries 2 days a week. All of the picking, sales, marketing, pest management, tailgate markets, irrigating, mowing, discing, cultivating, plowing, planting, seeding, buying club box assembling etc. etc. etc....was done by our tiny group of determination.  We did not have a crew of men or a gaggle of unpaid interns...nope we were a skeleton crew. But I like to think we were a pretty productive bunch.

Work days were long....pretty much every day was 16-18 hours.  At one point I was offered a job by a woman who said, "If you'd like to take a break from the farm just give me a call."  I haven't wanted to slap someone that much in a long time....however I just smiled.  There's no taking a break.  It's chasing that dollar...turning it into cash because you're in a race against mother nature, over ripeness, bugs, deer, ground hogs, and disease.  You want to be the winner so you haul ass! Amen!

What a glorious whirlwind.  I'm sure many of you reading this have had that feeling if you own your own business or have a job you love...when you're caught up in the excitement and hustle - you're a little unsure but you go for it.  Stop talking and start moving.  And then when things are under control (I realize most people don't work in seasonal occupations) or slowed down for the season you can take a moment to sit and smile.  You accomplished something. 

A BIG Thank You
There are two people who I could have never started this crazy adventure with out: my Mom and my Mentor/guardian angel/comic relief specialist, Robert.  My  Mom and I have a similar relationship when it comes to farming as my Dad and grandpop....we disagree quite a bit...there was a lot of, "What are you even saying?" "NO!" and "You're driving me insane!" on both of our ends.  Pretty funny to watch actually. Even though she's quiet she is my biggest cheerleader and my biggest fan.  And she also really loves driving big tractors as seen in the picture below.  
Thanks Mom!

I am incredibly appreciative for the hilarious and thoughtful guidance of our friend Robert.

He has imparted a great deal of knowledge this year...

1. Everything wants to live (this is true unless you ask my Mom who firmly believes that pumpkins and melons try to die on a daily basis)
2. Talking to the tractor will make a tractor that won't start, fire right up
3. You (me) worry way too much - about everything
4. "Put the feed to it" a.k.a fertilize
5. Get it picked and Sell! Sell! Sell!
6.. and most recently...cauliflower leaves get tied with a rubber band to keep the head of cauliflower from a Cauliflower pony tail if you will. On knowing when it's ready to be picked: Just reach your hand in between those leaves and if it feels like a 48 Double D than it's ready.

Robert drives a roaring little tan pickup with the bed filled with the most random items: hot pink garden flamingo, buckets, random tools, some broken widgets, and seasonal produce picked form his "garden." In the passenger seat is Tucker (yellow lab) and on the passenger floor is Sheeba (boarder collie)...cup of coffee in his hand, snapback hat on his head....everything screaming lifelong farmer... A life dedicated to seeing something from start to finish and nurturing it along the way...kind of like he did to help me this year.
Thanks Robert!

I have the most incredibly community and customers.  Your outpouring of support has been nothing short of incredible.  You inspire me!  Seeing my farmers' market regulars was such a highlight.  I loved getting to know you, hear your stories about life and cooking, see you get excited about what I had available each week.  
Buying Club Members...thank you for putting your faith in me to provide you with tasty and esthetically appealing fruits and vegetables.  I wanted to create a program where you had the power to choose when and what you wanted...thank you for making that a success.
To the white haired man who on a few occasions pulled up next to the field to say "Good job"
To all of the customers who shopped with my parents for years who now shop with me
To all of the farmers who offered their time and advice and assistance
To my Grandma who has a direct prayer line to the Big Guy Upstairs
To all of the customers who are shopping with Robson's Farm for the first time

Thank You!       
Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. Beautifully written, Rose. Thank you for connecting me to the food I eat.
    Michael, the man with a bagged dog.

    1. I looked forward to seeing you each week! Happy Thanksgiving Michael!

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