Sunday, September 16, 2012

Meet the Meekers

Okay, fellow bloggers. Really I am still here. I just have more work and less energy to keep up with the blog. I try to read my blogs everyday, but I am not keeping up with the commenting. Sweet Rose at Second Hand Rose awarded Welcome to the Garden Spot the Liebester Award. I just have not had enough time to accept the award in fine fashion. Thank you Rose. I love your kind comments and I love visiting you to hear about your adventures with Miss May, the hedgehog, and I do enjoy seeing your wonderful treasures that you find. I would love to go shopping with you. Thank for the award; it's nice to be recognized.

Work wears me out. And the garden has gone dull. Not dead yet, but so pathetically lack luster. So I am not inspired to take photos or write about gardening--there isn't much inspiration there these days, but let me introduce you our dear friends who work hard to grow food.

We've been friends with Russell and Doris Meeker for a long, long time. Russ and my husband grew up together. Their dads farmed through through the 1950s, both finally giving up on farming in the 1970s as the farm economy tanked into an agricultural crisis, causing farmers across the country to lose not just their farms, but their way of life. 

Russell joined the military after high school. Gerald went to junior college, earning an Associates degree in accounting and went to work for a grain elevator. Both young men married and began raising their families; both eventually went to work for Woodward Governor as machinists. Russell after 15 years decided to answer that nagging call that never leaves a farm boy's soul: farming. Gerald continued to work for Woodward 31 years, retiring 3 years ago. The men's paths would once again merge. We ran into Russell at the local cafe when jokingly I asked him if he didn't have any work the retiree. (You know how husbands tend to get underfoot when they don't have a job to go to.)  Be careful what you wish for because a few weeks later Russell called Gerald and asked him if he would haul his fresh produce to 5 grocery stores in Greeley and Denver. Gerald agreed to help out. Now whenever Russ needs a bit more help doing field work in the tractor, Gerald is there, answering his heart's desire to farm, but his main job is hauling Russ' vegetables to grocery stores.

In addition to nearly 200 acres of field corn, Russ plants a pretty big vegetable garden, selling his produce in a roadside stand in Eaton, Colorado: 27 acres of sweet corn water melon, musk melon, a variety of peppers, cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes. Gerald delivers sweet corn, watermelons, and peppers to 14 grocery stores including 11 Safe A Lot grocery stores located locally in Greeley, Longmont, and Denver. Most of the stores serve low income neighborhoods who appreciate the fresh produce. Right now he hauls two to four loads a week of sweet corn, peppers, and water melons. 

By day Doris works for their church, the Evangelical Free Church of Eaton in the office, then at the end of the day,  she heads to the stand to serve their loyal customers. 


Russ grows real water melon, seeds and all.  His customers love them.







 I took the photos several weeks ago, so the vegetables were not yet mature; now the farm labors are busy picking and sacking corn, loading bins with watermelons, and harvesting the other vegetables for the stand. While Russ is busy in the field, he hires extra help to run the stand located just off of Highway 85 in Eaton until Doris can take over at the end of her day.


 The vegetables are irrigated with well water which is carried from the ditch to the field through aluminum syphon tubes.

Tools of the Trade

Look at these big boys. Guy toys, especially for the farm kid living in town. It is true what they say: You can take the kid out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the kid or a 60 year old man.


More machinery than one can image. Farming is costly, even a risky business with the heavy investment in farm implements from ditchers, to cultivators, to waders.



 And no farmer can go without his waders when it's time to irrigate which could be by the light of the moon.


 While Russ leases his farm ground, land owners supplement their income by signing oil and gas leases along with farming leases. Existing together side by side, corn used for silage (cattle feed) or ethanol and natural gas wells and oil wells are a common sight throughout northern Colorado farm fields since there are huge oil and gas reserves below the surface in Northern Colorado.



Follow the sign to fresh, healthy vegetables.

 

Picked fresh every day although the onions come from another farmer. Russ and Doris also sell peaches and pears grown on Colorado's Western slope--the other side of the Rocky Mountains.





Doris helps a customer while Russ and Gerald tell tall tales of their youthful past.



This time of year the farmers' markets and our gardens are full of fresh produce. As consumers, we love the fresh produce and place special value on the food we feed our families when we know that it is locally grown. As gardeners, we understand the challenges that farmers face growing fresh food; it is hard, expensive work with few guarantees and lots of risk. Russell luckily has survived this summer's hail and drought, two of the farmer's worst perils to overcome. He did have to let about 35 acres watered with ditch water lay fallow because of the drought in Colorado.  

As backyard gardeners, we tend to take fresh foods for granted, but as the cliche states, a farmer's row is not an easy row to hoe. Russ loves his job. Gerald loves helping his friend. Together with Doris to keep the men in line, Meeker Produce helps put fresh, healthy produce on the table. With their strong Christian faith to guide them, hard work, and positive outlook, the Meekers run a successful business providing healthy food not just for their local friends and neighbors, but their food also ends up on the tables of families who are on tight budgets who want to provide fresh produce for their families.

The growing season is coming to an end with about two more weeks of deliveries. Meeker Produce has had a successful season, but the question remains, "Will they go again next year?" No one knows the answer. Well, really the answer is probably "yes"; however, it really does depend on what sort of winter we have, how much snow and moisture the Colorado mountains receive on whether or not there will be enough water for any of the farmers who rely on irrigation to water their crops. Hopefully next spring I can announce that hubby is helping Russell get his fields ready to plant.

So tomorrow I will lecture on pronoun agreement, Ethics of teaching, and the elements of short story. Exciting stuff. While some bloggers tweet and FB, you follow my course web site www.unco.edu/english/aerasmu. Actually, go read about how Rose at Second Hand Rose rescued and saved Miss May.

Have a glorious week.




8 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed reading this well-written post - your friends certainly grow big-style - I think farmers the world over are having a tough time of it weatherwise but as you say, it seems to be in their blood. Like you I am all gardened-out - my garden is past its sell-by date now and I am looking forward to a restful winter.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love this post Ann, it makes me appreciate more all the hard work farmers do.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for your grateful <a href="http://blogs.studentsarea.com”> students blogs </a> informations.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Ann!
    Work makes me tired, too! It's way too busy!
    The Meekers have a good thing going! Watermelon, too? Wow!
    Now the garden will give you a rest. Drink lots of tea, friend!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey mom. You do the Meekers a great, great honor by blogging for them. I know that dad takes great pride in not just helping them out, but hauling produce for them. The Meekers are great People-known them most of my life. And dad is a great person for helping them out. He would have it no other way and he loves it. Great blog mom.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Ann
    What a great post, we sometimes forget all the hard work that goes on for us to get fresh food. And thank you for your very kind comments, it is indeed a pleasure to pass on the award to you.
    Now, go put your feet up and have a cuppa!
    Rose H
    x

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hello Ann,
    Since this is not too far away from me, I should head out next summer and find this farm stand.
    We used to drive up to Greeley a lot when our daughter was going to school there and see all those fields and I would get hankering for some corn like my dad grows.
    Take care and enjoy the upcoming fall season.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Now that's what I call farming. I believe it's quite hard work. I know that many farmers in Northern Ireland struggle at times and sometimes they are the ones that work hardest but get the least income through the retail chains.

    ReplyDelete