Meredith, owner of Granite Springs Farm, took a mesh bag full of spinach out of the washer machine. It’s a common practice among the local farms, to wash vegetables in a bathtub and put them on spin cycle in the washer.
Spinach at Granite Springs grows both outside and in the hoop house. It was the first time I had ever seen spinach before sitting in bags in a grocery store. Growing up, it just appeared in my fridge, and my whole life I never wondered where it came from or what it looked like before that point. Working on a farm, I find myself infantile. My questions of, what’s this? This is broccoli? These are brussel sprouts? THIS is SPINACH?!
It’s just so strange. To realize that not only had I never known how certain vegetables grow, but I never even wondered. The things we take for granted.
Spinach leaves grow in rosettes straight from the red clay soil. No bush or flower. Just the stem and leaf, so little and cute. The roots are rather shallow; I could clip the stems with the mere sharp side of my thumbnail. I’ve eaten a lot of spinach in my life. To think someone picked all those individual leaves! Okay, maybe the California grown spinach I bought in college from IGA was a bit more massed produced. It probably took multiple hands, which says something else.
Spinach is a cool season crop that’s quick to mature. Taylor and I were instructed to pick the biggest leaves from each rosette. When we returned the next day, the spinach had significantly grown overnight. Leaves that were the size of my thumb had grown to almost the size of my palm.
Once I was on my hands and knees picking spinach, each individual leaf felt more precious. I thought of all the spinach I had known that, while tossing a salad or traveling on a fork, fell overboard and went un-rescued. I would shrug my shoulders and throw it away.Or even worse, all the spinach I let rot in the fridge because I didn’t feel like eating it.
Of course, I’m being a little dramatic. Waste happens, even on small organic farms. But my perspective changed once I became the picker. Learning that only one stock of broccoli grows per plant was incredible to me. And on organic farms, not all crops grow to potential every season. Some plants die or become diseased. Much is trial and error, with sometimes three seasons between each trial.
It’s a common practice on organic farms to take a moment before eating to be thankful. Not for a religious reason, either, but for the very real hands and hours that went into harvesting the food. The food nurtured from their own soil, seeds planted with their own hands, their creases and nail beds filled with dirt, the smell of the earth still on their fingers as they take their first bite. That’s as close as you can get. Being able to tell the story of the food first hand. It’s all connected in a very tangible way, grounded in a belief that nothing good is granted without work, care, love, and good values.