I just got back out to the vineyard this past week after a long cold winter. I love being out on the escarpment, it's the best job ever. But I swear to Satan, if one more person asks "you're picking grapes?" I'm going to loose it. Look outside, what do you see? Leaves? No. Flowers? No. Fruit of any type at all? No! When do we get fresh local grapes around here? That's right, fall. I spend my entire summer tending the plants, so they produce grapes, which are picked in all of a week or so. Grapes do not in fact pop continuously out of the ground 365 days a year, but like most food, take an incredible amount of care and labor to create. Those walnuts you are eating, they planted those trees 20 some years before they produced ANY crop at all.
Grape trellises get repaired, the vines are tied up, pruned of buds and shoots 6-8 times through the year, pruned of flowers, pushed up into the wires that keep them up-right, pruned of fruit, prune the leaves one more time before harvest. There is a rest while they ripen, then a fury of picking, from sun-up to sun-down. Some grapes may be left till it's as cold as it's going to get for the year, well below zero, so they can be pressed while frozen and full of sugar, you don't even want to imagine what THAT is like.
I am working on two vineyards that weren't kept up for a few years, they are in terrible condition. It will easily take 3-5 years before they are back up to production. Three to five very difficult years. There's even a chance that some of it can't be saved and will need to be replaced, trellis, plants, and all. Vegetables, every day you don't weed is crop lost, ignore them for a week and it's all over. Mix that with harvesting three times a week, not much time left at all.
Food is born of countless hours of back-braking labor, blood, pain, low pay, and insurmountable joys of accomplishment, Each harvest is a year round endeavor, many take years, if not decades to complete. Hundreds of hours of hands on labor, sometimes in miserable conditions. Every person should be required to weed a row of beans, dig 50lbs of potatoes in a November storm, slaughter and butcher a chicken, milk and tend cows at 5am for a week, plant a greenhouse on a sunny August day, and winter prune some grapes, just so they understand exactly what goes into their meals.
Next time you see a farmer or field worker, give them a hug, offer them a back massage or bite to eat, and say "Thanks."
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