News From the Farm | May 13, 2019

Alfredo has been working at Full Belly for at least 17 years.  He works hard and is very focussed when he works.  I was recently visiting our tomato plantings because I had not seen them in a week, and I ran into him working in our first planting.  It’s about 7-acres, with tomato plants about a foot tall, transplanted out of the greenhouse and into the soil in the first few days of April.

There are a lot of steps along the way to a Full Belly Sun Gold or Brandywine…  After planting we have to get the irrigation systems going.  Around here that means underground drip tape hooked up to a main line and filters.  This has to happen as quickly as possible over a lot of acreage in the Spring when we’re turning beds full of cover crops into beds full of summer crops.  Spring cool often turns to summer heat very quickly, leaving plenty of opportunities for plants to get thirsty and nerves to get frayed.

The metal stake is put into position, then the tractor does the rest of the work.

We grow tomatoes that need to be trellised. The first step to creating a trellis in the field is to position stakes in the beds at intervals that allow for string to be wound around the plants and tied at the stakes. In the ‘olden days’ (a few years ago) our method was to pound the stakes in by hand with a heavy metal stake-pounder (the crew called it ‘el niño’). After a couple of minor injuries related to el niño, we decided to move on. We now have a tractor attachment that allows two people working together to drive stakes into the ground with much less exertion.  Pounding in those stakes was not only hard on muscles and ligaments, it was also hard on ear drums.  Letting the tractor do the hard work is quieter, faster and easier on human bodies.  The tractor just slides those stakes down into the soil as if it is butter.

The first tomato tie — there are two lines, one on either side of the plants.  There will be several more as the plants grow.

Alfredo has pounded a lot of stakes and trellised a lot of tomatoes in his time.  When I ran into him he was just starting to tie the tomatoes in this 7-acre field.  The other two people on his crew were finishing the staking in a far corner.  The field stretched out, many straight beds.  Alfredo didn’t have a lot of time to talk — lots of tomato plants ahead of him, and this is just the first planting…

—Judith Redmond