Thursday, August 25, 2011

Organic Inspection and a Couple of Hummingbirds

                I have elected to start with the two hummingbirds, since that is the most recent in my memory, although both occurred in the same day, that is, this past Tuesday, August 23, 2011. This may appear to be an odd paring for a title, but I assure you that it… might make sense by the end of this entry… I hope! (What does not make sense is how the “p” on my keyboard has decided to become dysfunctional. How does one deal with that? Press harder! But I digress.)
                It was 4:45pm when I began weeding Field 3 Row 8, but weeding is not quite an accurate term. First off, somewhere within the tight verdure of weeds were red beets, and perhaps some gold beets, or at least that was the theory. Anyway, the row consisted of a variety of… plants, from purslane to pig weed to lambsquarter, all of which… pigs love to devour! Technically, beyond weeding, I was also harvesting feed for Kirk’s pigs. And to jump ahead a bit, man, but those pigs LOVED those greens, as one group of pigs snorted their dismay over not being tossed those delectables first… but I will get back to that in another entry.
                The day was incredibly un-August like! The temperature was in the 70s (Fahrenheit, that is), and for some reason, it felt rather peaceful and stress-free. So, I continued to find small beet plants beneath the towering plants listed above and liberated them from their “weed” enshrouded captivity. It was after 6pm, when I heard/felt a rumble.
                I have to pause here, because what I am about to describe is the approach of hummingbirds. To begin, I am not sure what species of hummingbirds they were. I have a few bird books that I have paged through, but none of the pictures are accurate to what I witnessed in the field. There was a definite presence of yellow on their torsos, and since they were so close to me, that is undeniable. The fact that they were hummingbirds is also undeniable, since the rapid wing motion all the while hovering in one place in mid-air produced that “humming” for which they are named.
And I will pause again here to assert that a more accurate term for those birds should be “rumblingbirds”. The term “hum” suggests harmonious resonance, whereas those birds’ wing beats is somewhat dissonant. As a person who has learned to tune stringed instruments to a hum for a couple of decades, there would be no way to tune such instruments to a hummingbird’s wing “beat”. In fact, that sound resembles something far different, but allow me to describe…
So, I was weeding, or harvesting. My mind, as usual was deep in thought, when a slight rumbling was heard, and felt. (And this is what I hope to describe accurately!) There is not so much a “humming” that is heard, as… a tremor in the force, if you will, only not evil. It is a mellow “rumbling”, as though a far off plane is approaching the airport runway to the south of me and soon will be roaring over head in its descent. But, that sound did not grow so intense. My thoughts were ceased that day, because that rumbling was subtle, and continuous, and once it was actually realized, it was realized to be VERY close. Over the years, I have learned to latch onto the sound of hummingbirds, simply because they seem to be so human friendly, and because of that trait, they intrigue me greatly. In much the same way the stink bug’s short brusque buzz alerts me to their presence, the rumbling wing beats of the hummingbird alerts me to them.
When the sound settled into my brain that it was a hummingbird in the near vicinity, which in some strange manner resembled that of a mellow pulsing diesel engine, I paused my “harvest” and looked for the source. The row next to me contained bell peppers, and a wire trellis was installed over those plants, which resembles a clothes line about six feet in the air. I noticed the first hummingbird as it hovered just before the wire of the trellis staring directly at me. And that is the thing with at least that type of hummingbird. They specifically approach ME, and hover just over head quite passively. There are no flowers around to source nectar, there is nothing which could be the focus of their stare… other than ME. This has happened so many times over the years that it has to be the case. By why? Why do hummingbirds feel the need to “meet” me? I still find the situation very odd.
Anyway, the second hummingbird flitted in with nary a sound and perched on the wire of the trellis. Then, the first hummingbird started to dance, if that is what it should be called. In mid-air, as its wings beat incessantly in its diesel-esque tone, it stared straight at me, then shifted to the left, then the right, then forward, then to the left… Actually, I cannot remember its “steps”, but to witness that bird’s actions, I SWEAR that bird was dancing! And the second bird just stared at me from the wire. All that time, I was crouching low to the ground in a baseball catcher’s stance. I had ceased my activity, because I did not want to startle them. My intense curiosity wanted to film those creature’s activities into my memory. Again, to pause, hummingbirds always seem to make an appearance before me as I weed at the farm. It truly seems like a form of greeting, where they face to face meet me, then speed along on whatever course is their destiny. The situation is extremely odd, at least to me. Of what interest could I be to those tiny birds? It is not like I intentionally build nests for them… or feed them. Nonetheless, as mentioned above, for some unknown reason, hummingbirds tend to make a face to face meeting, at least to this human animal.
I watched the dancing hummingbird for quite a few minutes. At first, I was curious as to how long the dancing would last. After those minutes passed, I realized I needed to shift from my squatting position, because… well, I am getting old, and the knee sport injuries I experienced in the distant past often make themselves known quite ADAMANTLY! I knew that once I shifted my position the hummingbirds would vacate the scene. Such a shift from a six-foot male mammal would definitely not come across like the “dancing” of that one hummingbird.  I shifted. The two hummingbirds flew away.
Oh, and that is why I brought up the organic certification for 2011. Earlier that day, my annual organic certification inspection took place. My neighbor, Kirk, with the pigs, etc. was also in attendance, as Bill, the certifying agent and I walked the fields. There were no hummingbirds witnessed during that part of the inspection, in fact, hummingbirds are no longer a focus of this entry.
Eventually, we sat around a large dining table in my parent’s house, (They own the property as well as the old farm house on the property that was built long before indoor plumbing. There is currently indoor plumbing, but I digress again.), in order to go over the paperwork side of the organic certification inspection. This involves detailing all the processes used on my farm, amendments, etc. I have gone through this process for years, and it really amounts to me simply relaying my record keeping in order to show accountability.
But then, I heard… and felt what seemed to be the rumbling of a diesel engine. That is not unusual, since the lay of the land, that is the hills and valleys, cause any diesel-powered vehicle that rumbles down Hughes Shop Road to be “felt” in the old farm house. But it did not cease! And it increased in intensity! A diesel truck must have been coming up the driveway. Perhaps it was an oil company truck to fill up my parent’s oil tank. I mentioned this to Kirk to my left. I stood in an attempt to look out the side window but I was blocked by other chairs and such. Then, as the rumbling intensified even more, I looked back to the table, over which hung a dangling light fixture which was shaking back and forth… in the opposite direction THAT THE WALLS WERE SHAKING!!!
WHAT THE…? The three of us looked at each other with incredulousness. “Is this an earthquake?” I asked naively. We had no idea. We had never experienced one. For maybe twenty seconds the house shook and the old farm house windows rattled against each other, as we remained relatively motionless, uncertain as to what to do next. And then it was gone. Or was it? Strange thoughts arose, at least to me. Was the oil burning furnace directly below us in the basement about to explode for some unknown reason? But things had settled down. The tremor had passed. The three of us talked a bit about it, and our conclusions were correct. When Bill got into his vehicle, the radio relayed that indeed an earthquake was the cause, and he passed the info to Kirk and I.
Wow! Nature! Never underestimate that power!
For me… what a day! Tremors of all kinds! Hummingbirds, earthquakes, and definitely those that just passed me by! “You live, you learn.” That is a cliché. But I drink up such unexpected situations with exuberance! Life on the planet Earth is amazing on SO MANY levels. And for sure, absolutely for certain, that was an organic certification inspection that none of us will forget!!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


                “Fresh”. Ah, there is nothing like “fresh” produce… But then again, what is “fresh” produce? More specifically, when produce is labeled “fresh”, what exactly does that mean?

                For those familiar with the continuing debacle over word usage in advertising produce, I apologize, but nonetheless, bear with this entry for a bit, for the debacle over verbiage is the very heart of the matter!

                The reason behind the term “fresh” as the title for this entry is that the terms “organic” and “local” have already been commandeered by the government. That statement will surely make some heads shake over that despicable entity, known as the “government”. Nonetheless, this entry comes from the heart of a farmer, and more specifically an organic farmer, that is, one that deals daily with REALITY and not IDEOLOGY. There is quite a huge difference between those two approaches: the former deals with integrity, the latter with belief. In respect to the “laissez-faire” ideology, at least in the 21st century situation of agriculture, it is a contradiction. While it would be quite “idyllic” to have no government intrusion in the realm of agriculture, in our current situation, that is quite a naïve… belief. Unfortunately, commerce dictates agriculture, and integrity, as a result, is a rare, very rare occurrence. As a result, agriculture is monitored by government agencies, and as such, is as convoluted as any other form of enterprise monitored by government agencies. Inevitably it is a contradiction, AND very far removed from any realm of “idyllia”. But the point of this entry is not to envision or “push forward” any form that “idyllia” may take. Enough of the interlude. Let’s start with “organic”…

                When I first was “certified organic” back in 2001, with the intention, that still exists, to provide “organic” produce to Carroll County, that is, the county in which I farm, I was met with little respect in regards to my “integrity” at that time. The reason behind that was that there was a local “organic” farm not far from my farm that was anything but “organic”. In my own naivety at the time, I thought that an “organic” approach, rather than that of constant pesticides, herbicides, etc. might be appreciated…, at least to some degree. What I quickly learned was that a “faux” farm that called themselves “organic” lie less than three miles from me, and their actions caused all local denizens aware of those actions to scoff at the term “organic”. At that time, the term “organic” had not been commandeered by the government. And what I discovered about that “faux” farm absolutely devastated me, that is in regard to the integrity of the actual “organic” farming practice. The “faux” farm travelled to D.C. to sell their “organic” produce, and it was well known in this area that they supplemented, if not completely “commandeered” their “organic” produce from the local market shelves of cheap conventional produce! With such a devious example, who would care about “organic”?

                But that example is exactly why the “National Organic Program” (NOP) was put into effect. At that point, the government commandeered the term “organic”, and if that term would be used in the future, the entity using the “organic” term would have to “certified” under the NOP standards. (To explain a little here, before the NOP was introduced, there were hundreds of individual organic certifying agencies. I was certified by the Maryland Department of Agriculture, which remains current. The NOP created guidelines that all of the organic certifiers needed to adhere to, thus making it a legitimate regulatory force.) As a result, there are no more random assertions of “organic” products. If a product is “organic” now, it will be accompanied by either the NOP stamp or the certifying agent accredited by the NOP.

                Phew! That sounds like a lot of bureaucracy, but in reality, it should act as an alleviating source one can depend upon. I will definitely grant that there are still issues involved with the NOP regulations, and most specifically on how animals are allowed to be raised in “caged” situations, but nonetheless, what has resulted from the “commandeering” of the term “organic”, at least from my perspective, is a very good thing. At least now, if someone declares themselves to be “organic”, you, as a consumer, can say, “Prove it!” The proof is in the certification, which requires detailed data collection that records every part of a farm’s operation, so that, in respect to a… tomato, for example, the source of that tomato can be traced back to where the seed for the plant originated, how that seed was planted, what type of soil/amendments in which that sprouted seed grew, when the eventual tomato fruit was harvested, AND where that tomato was eventually sold or distributed. Some may think of that process as a logistical nightmare, but for a scientific mind, it is merely data keeping, that is, a means of essentially learning from the process. Nonetheless, the main reason behind such data keeping is accountability. If something negative should occur from eating, say that tomato discussed above, everything involved in the growing of that tomato is readily accessible to be traced for where that tomato went afoul. Instead of finding out about some, say, beef recall, on the news, then listen a week later to find out they narrowed the source down to a dozen states, which diminishes to three state by a month’s time, all “organic” produce, which includes meats, are absolutely traceable through the record keeping. To my mind, it is a 21st century approach to farming. Ah, but the greedy have no time for such record keeping! Laissez-faire! Bah…

                Now that is how the government intrusion evolved on the term “organic”. Of more recent times, the term “local” became an issue. This was mostly an issue that revolved around the sporadic road side farm stands that offer everything…(and I jest with everything, for you may never find salad mix at such a road side stand, but that is exactly part of this issue) from corn to cantaloupe to tomatoes to watermelon, at times when they are never even close to being ripe in a particular growing region. Such road side stands have been a target of my aggression for years, and I have vociferated over such fictitious “farming” practices endlessly. And now, it seems, the government has tuned into not only my own frustration, for I am a rather late-comer in regards to agricultural integrity, but to the actual “local” farmer’s situation as well.

                As I have described in previous entries, for the most part those “local” road side stands consist of “faux” farmers. There is a HUGE produce depot in Jessup where most of the produce found on supermarket shelves, on restaurant plates, etc., is originally transported into the area. Everything sold there is sold in bulk, and very cheaply as well. The produce can originate from Florida to California to Peru to China. This is produce marketing BIG AGRICULTURE style. And, if you have the money, and a means to haul such bulk produce, it is available for you to put in the back of your pick-up or box truck, and drive to some road side in the beautiful state of Maryland, and sell out of the back of said vehicle all those beautiful tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe and corn, that are not even close to harvest time in the beautiful Maryland region. (Of course, those “faux” farmers also sell that bulk produce when the above mentioned produce is ripe in Maryland fields, but I digress.) For the most part, random people driving by have no idea how that produce is obtained, and to be fair, the great majority wouldn’t even care if they found out. Nonetheless, such a situation “appears” to be that of a hard working farmer taking his farm raised produce to the road side to make a couple of bucks. I sincerely doubt that any such “faux” farmer would readily admit where that produce was originally purchased!

                Now all that described above, I guess, is in some way legitimate, that is, acceptable capitalistic practices. However, all of this ceases to be acceptable, in fact severs the cord to the life force of reality, once those signs are placed along the roadside along which that “faux” farm situation rests that read, “LOCAL PRODUCE”. I often felt like pulling over at those road side stands, crying out “Li-ar!” like Carol Kane’s character in “The Princess Bride”, only with a male voice of course, and attacking those imposters in Three Stooges’ fashion all the way to “smacking off their nose” backed by the retort, “Oh, wise guy!” But I never did, and all of that is in the past, which is a very good thing.

                What happened? Government intruded… yet again!  This time the intrusion was specifically targeted toward the false advertising claim of “LOCAL PRODUCE”, after all, how “local” is Peru? This all arose, actually it came to a head last year, but it arose because of the rising interest in actual “local” produce. How can a local farm compete against a retailer who sells foreign products at cheap prices all the while advertising that is “local”? This is yet another example of necessary government intrusion to my mind, and laissez-faire be damned! It is one thing to compete, and quite another to do so “honestly”.

And so, the government commandeered the term “Local”. In this case, instead of defining that term or administering a list of guidelines to meet in order to be “local”, a less intense approach was taken. It was decided to let the consumer decide whether the produce is “local” or not, nonetheless, the retailer, or actual farmer for that matter, must relay to the consumer exactly where that produce originated. (And all of that just to keep things honest! Sheesh!)

As a result of that last government intrusion, what I witnessed this spring while passing those road side stands made me chuckle. No longer were the signs stating “LOCAL PRODUCE” posted before those “faux” farm stands. Instead, the signs read “FRESH PRODUCE”. Now just what does “fresh” mean?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

One Pound Tomato Gulp

                Early in 2010, one of my brothers sold his property at the corner of Stone Road and Murkle Road to Kirk and Jen Robertson. At least five years earlier, that parcel was included in my organic certification situation. While no synthetic products touched the property the following five years or so, it was, nonetheless, no longer part of my “operation”. When the property was sold to Kirk and Jen, I was told that they were interested in getting the property “certified organic”. In order to do that, they would have to contact the previous people who used the property for an affidavit stating exactly what was added to the fields and when…
                Kirk called me when the four feet of snow that was dropped on us had melted to… maybe three feet ten inches? It was hard to tell. Anyway, and to skip to the meat of the matter, if you will, Kirk and Jen had purchased a piece of property that at that time, they had no idea would be of great benefit to them, as in, its actual locality. And not to jinx this situation, the great benefit expressly is designated toward their pigs.
                While for ten years, I have personally slaved/labored relentlessly attempting to produce organic vegetables, Kirk has spent more years raising animals, that is, chickens, pigs, and especially cattle. What Kirk did not realize when he purchased that property at the corner of Stone Road and Murkle Road was that while he intended to become certified organic with his pasture, and eventually his animals, a 100% certified organic vegetable farm lie .7 miles away. (That would be my farm, or more accurately, my parent’s property on which I farm on the dirt portion of Hughes Shop Road.)
                Anyway, again to fast forward this entry, it is now August of 2011. It would be impossible to estimate how many times Kirk and I have talked about our two operations over the past year and a half. Nonetheless, what we both discovered early on was how elements of each of our farms could greatly help the others. And again, in order to curtail this assessment, what I noticed rather quickly was that the “weeds” that I pulled from my many, many vegetable rows were by no means considered “weeds” by Kirk’s pigs. In fact, THEY ABSULUTELY LOVE THEM!!!
                What actually led up to the discovery that pigs love, well, organic farm weeds, was a discussion with another farmer a year ago, who, when hearing me gripe about the endless chore of pulling purslane from the vegetable rows, (purslane is considered a “weed”), the other farmer mentioned how he knew another farmer who fed his pigs purslane. After hearing that, in fact later that day, as dusk was settling, I pulled a bunch of purslane from Field 4 and gave it to Kirk to feed to his pigs. He called back a little while later to state that those pigs devoured that purslane like there was no better treat on earth. (Oh, but there is, pigs, just you wait…)
                Thus started Kirk and my deliberation over… weeds, organic vegetable production and organically feeding those weeds to pigs (and sometimes cows). Kirk and I did not know each other all that well at that point. We were more congenially helping each other without truly realizing what lie in the future. The point of this, I guess, is that it struck me quite early how almost all of the “weeds” pulled from my organic vegetable fields, which would normally be placed on a compost pile, is enthusiastically devoured when offered to pigs. They “tear it up”, so to speak! I was particularly struck by this when I witnessed the devouring process of the pigs upon vegetation that had grown very annoying to me. Again, at that point, Kirk and I were still well-meaning neighbors, but I could not ignore the situation… Why compost my farm’s “weeds”, when Kirk’s pigs LOVED them?
                Now that was about a year ago. We have since aligned our farms in such a fashion that we constantly help each other out. And one of my constant chores is to “feed the pigs”. After weeding the many rows of organic vegetables, those weeds are taken to Kirk’s farm and given to the pigs to feast upon…
                All of that introduction leads to the “one pound tomato gulp”.  Unfortunately, Idyllia has still as yet not landed on my farm. As a result, there are often many, many crops that are tainted in such a fashion that they cannot be sold. The focus here are the Pineapple tomatoes. Pineapple tomatoes are HUGE! They are often over a pound in size. To describe this a little clearer, it takes two hands to handle those tomatoes properly. The diameter of those gigantic tomatoes can be eight inches! However, and inevitably, some of those tomatoes split, and by the time harvest arrives, bugs, beasts, whatever, have nicked or feasted upon a small section of those beautifully delicious tomatoes to the point that beyond being unsellable, it is also not worth the effort for, say, me to personally devour.
                As a result, and instead of allowing those fruits to rot on the vine, they are picked and bucketed, then carted to Kirk’s pigs. To pause here, witnessing those pigs “tear up” the vegetation thrown to them is one thing, to see them devour tomatoes is quite another. Ravenous is a poor description of those pigs’ approach. Now to pause, there is more than one pig, and some react differently than others. In one paddock, at that time, Kirk had a boar and two sows. One of the sows was smaller than the other two pigs, and when the tomatoes were dumped into the paddock, she would secure one of those huge Pineapple tomatoes and scurry away from the other two, then somewhat slowly devour that delectable feast. I have witnessed that numerous times amongst human children, when the smaller child gains a treat, they have to resort to similar tactics less the larger children steal that nugget from them.
                But that is also an aside. The point here is the one pound tomato gulp. And here is how I witnessed it. I like to tease the pigs a bit, by first throwing in a few buckets of fresh “weeds” to them. They root through the green vegetation searching for the tomatoes they can smell, but have not yet been delivered. They toss the green vegetation with their snouts, then come back to the fence where I stand with their noses high in the air, all the while snorting, “Hey, where’s the good stuff?” At least that is how I hear it. Then, I toss in a bucket of the tomatoes…
                Again, ravenous is a poor description. When I threw that bucket of pineapple tomatoes into their paddock, there was enough for all, and the boar seemed intent on devouring ALL! With incredible rapidity, tomato after tomato was munched… and there is no chewing involved. The terms “scarfing down” or “ingesting a meal” adequately equates the situation. And then that boar found one of those one pound pineapple tomatoes. Now to describe this, the mouth of the boar does not appear nearly large enough to attack that tomato straight on… but that is exactly what it did! With its lower jaw, it flipped that eight inch diameter tomato into the air… only a couple of inches, that is, just enough for it to “open wide”, and with one gulp, one second of time… that tomato was gone!
                What an amazing sight! It would take me a minute at the minimum to devour that juicy treat, even with all that juice spraying and dripping all over me. And yet, with one quick gulp, that boar devoured that entire tomato… and then it was off to the next one!
                Again, it is quite the sight to witness those pigs truly appreciate that which humans view as unacceptable produce. For me, there is a definite sadness involved, as I think about all of my effort, my labor that was negated by bugs and beasts, thus netting me no profit, yet again. But to see those pigs relish that nectar! At least those creatures truly appreciate what nature can provide… bug damaged or not!
                In closing, the other day, after dusk, I drove my truck over to Kirk’s to drop off some more besmirched tomatoes. The lights on my truck could not significantly illuminate the pig paddocks, but I could definitely discern the activity! Seemingly as soon as I dumped a bucket of tomatoes into the paddock, my legs were instantly sprayed with tomato juice as those joyous pigs chomped away! Wow! Somehow I think I have witnessed pig heaven!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


                Perfection. Now just what exactly does that mean? To be “perfect”, to be the prima example, but, what again does that mean? Alas, after analyzing life on this planet for over forty years, all I have ever witnessed is imperfection! The state of flux, that is, that natural state of existence as all species evolve involves many multifarious levels of imperfection! But in the produce aisles of our supermarkets… that is unacceptable!!!
                It is normally around this time of year, the very end of July, that imperfection appears before me on every organic plant that attempts to thrive and produce its next generation of offspring. Beans are nicked, splotched and deformed, kale and chard leaves have holes, dead spots, etc., melons are cracked with many unknown assailants devouring their insides, Colorado potato beetle larva have long been devouring the potato leaves, groundhogs have inevitably breached the perimeter of the fences and found/devoured the latest lettuce and endive plantings, and the tomatoes have played host for the multitude of creatures that love to devour that fresh nectar, from the gruesome hornworm to the ever increasing population of brown marmorated stink bugs to name a few.
                Ah, perfection, what on earth could that really be? In fact, can perfection truly occur on earth? What, after all, is perfection?
                Alas, as far as I can fathom, it is an unfathomable “ideal”. However, if one discounts the most superficial of senses, that of sight, perhaps, just perhaps perfection can be found. If one takes, say, taste as the most important sense, there is an immeasurable amount of perfection on the farm! All that marred fruit, from tomatoes to beans to cantaloupes would be absolutely perfect if taste was the guiding force… and not sight!
                But that is not at all an easy fact to sell. Even if taken from the point of evolution, that is, for whatever reason, wiring, whatever, our bodies, our taste buds tell us specifically what is good for us by… tasting good, or even great! It is the natural path to survival. When we eat something that is bad for us, it does NOT taste good. Chomping into a delicious strawberry will not result in death. Such is the nature of how we human creatures, as well as all other creatures on the planet thrive. But this reflects the natural side of things, taste, and not the superficial, sight.
                Perfection on the visual side can only be accomplished through trickery at best. Perhaps through a particular camera angle, perhaps with extreme amounts of make-up, perhaps even something computer generated can display an example of “perfection”. Alas, it is never a situation of true reality. It is always some form of illusion.
                In order to explain better the point of this entry, I will use tomatoes as an example, and then juxtapose that with school age children. Hang on… and here we go!
                The perfect tomato exists in a large heap of red, often dull red, found on supermarket shelves from December to December, or July to July, that is, year round. Those tomatoes are perfectly round, and very, VERY solid. That visual display of perfection does not change throughout the year, or the decade… And after many decades, and perhaps a couple of generations, that visual perfection is ALL that will be acceptable in regards to what a perfect tomato should be, or more accurately, look like. Why mess with perfection?
                I have to pause here to interject my exasperation on how such a view of “perfection” actually developed in the first place. But I have jumped ahead here…
                THE PERFECTLY ROUND, RED, SOLID TOMATOES FOUND IN SUPERMARKETS ARE NOT PERFECT!!! They are… well, they are not tomatoes that are anywhere near perfect, that is, in the natural world. The supermarket tomatoes have been bred to:  be stacked layers deep without bruising, thus allowing for global-wide shipping, be perfectly round, that is, ideal for “slicing”, and uniformly red… Oh, here there needs to be some clarification. While some “locally” grown red slicing tomatoes may actually “ripen on the vine”, the vast majority are harvested green and artificially “ripened” during transport by the use of ethylene gas. While this may be the superficially “perfect” tomato, it is by no means an actual “perfect” tomato. But then again, that goes back to flavor…
                The actual “perfect” tomato varies in size from a small cherry to some well over a pound in size, which sometimes requires two hands to carry. They ripen in a wide variety of colors from purple to pink to orange and yellow, even GREEN! But seldom red. They cannot be stacked in layers for they will bruise easily, and they will not last for months on a supermarket shelf. For certain, that does not sound all too similar to a supermarket “perfect” tomato, and indeed it is not, but we are dealing with the difference between the superficiality of sight, and the actual delectable enjoyment of taste. By taste comparison, well, there is no comparison!
                Back to my exasperation… how has it come to this? For countless generations, our predecessors have nurtured those strangely shaped and differently hued tomatoes full of exploding flavor, only to lead to uniformly dull red, solid tomatoes piled on high on supermarket shelves. Actually, all of this has to do with global commerce. Do a Google search on Monsanto to see how bad it can get, that is, how far from natural reality…
                Anyway, what if perfection in regards to our own species was relegated to uniformity… and tastelessness? Actually, that was taken on by Orwell, Huxley and Bradbury early last century, as well as many others. But let’s play with this a little. As the tomatoes that I grow range in a multitude of colors and sizes, and well as deformities, etc., and yet are EXTREMELY delicious, let’s envisage this situation within a typical middle school of human children.
                Now to start, we are equating supermarket shelf tomatoes to middle school children. To begin, ALL children must be red in color, or I guess ruddy would be as close as it gets. Already we are up against segregation lawsuits of all kinds. Next, anyone tall or short… gone. Dump ‘em, toss’em, whatever, they don’t fit in. Anyone skinny or fat… Ciao! Early bloomer or late makes no difference because they will all be artificially brought to maturity anyway.
                So now we have the lineup of “perfection”. Wait a minute, Johnny’s got a wart… out with him! Suzie’s got a pimple… eradicate! Bobby’s got a bruise…
                I think you get the picture. And this is not to suggest the flavor motif of this entry reflects upon middle school children. That is definitely NOT funny. The point is, superficiality, which is almost always along visual lines, gets us nowhere! “Perfection”, and I assert this quite adamantly, is a matter of taste, TASTE! What your eyes see matters not at all! What your taste buds relay as you devour an “actual” tomato should stop any debate that may have arisen!