It’s Time to Say Thank You
“Do you bathe,” she asked me. “Are you interested in personal hygiene?”
I took my time answering these questions and looked back at the woman who was interviewing me.
“Seriously,” she continued. “The job you’re applying for is primarily a forklift driving/warehouse worker job, but there are some deliveries to make and some inevitable interactions with the public. This business is a co-op with several owners so if we hired you, you’d have several “bosses.” One of the “owner/partners” doesn’t believe in taking a bath or a shower and, in fact, he’s now saying that to wash his body is to destroy the lives of millions of microbes…. So he stinks…. He stinks so bad that some of the stores we serve have called to say that if we don’t find another driver they’re going to stop ordering. So, I ask again, ‘Do you bathe?’ If you don’t want to wash , if showering is ‘against your religion,’ then hey, that’s fine; no judgement…..but no job.”
“I take a bath every day,” I replied.
“Great,” she said. “You can start right now.”
So that’s how Dorothy came to hire me at Organic Matters Produce Company, on Monday, May 25th, 1989. It would have been after midnight not long after that job interview when I first met Gayle, the company’s bookkeeper. Some of you have gotten to know Gayle too, because she’s been taking the lead at our bi-monthly pop-ups at Piccino for a number of years. Sometimes I’ll get a nice note or see a complimentary post on Instagram or Facebook that says something positive about the produce we provide and they’ll thank me. I like the positive strokes, but I know it’s never me that made the nice array of veggies happen- it’s always a team effort. Gayle has played a big role in keeping our farm going over the years. After April she’ll be stepping back from her regular work schedule. I’m not saying “goodbye” to Gayle, but it’s never too early or too late to tell someone how much they mean to you.
Organic Matters was a good job for me. The company bought produce from all the local organic growers and distributed food around the local area and up as far as San Francisco so working there gave me an opportunity to get to know a lot of people I’d be working with for the next 30 plus years. If you’re trying to add up figures or figure out how someone else buggered up a whole pile of invoices it can help not to be distracted by all the shenanigans and drama that can occur in a busy office during the day. Gayle liked to work nights when the office was empty. I’d be there working too, but I’d be tucked away in a refrigerated warehouse, so I wasn’t on hand to bug her much.
In 1990 I farmed with Gayle’s husband, Joe, at Frogland Farm until the big freeze that December of that year, when temperatures dropped down below freezing and stayed that way for the next two weeks, even during the day, so that all the crops turned black and fell over. A competent bookkeeper can add up figures and keep the books straight, but a great bookkeeper doesn’t freak out and lose their professionalism when the numbers aren’t rosy. Organic Matters went out of business, Frogland shut down, but Gayle stayed busy working for other organic farms and for like-minded organizations like the Eco Farm Conference. When Mariquita Farm needed a real bookkeeper Gayle came to mind. And Gayle took the job, but only on the condition that we never ask her to wear high heels to work! We got a big laugh about that.
As a bookkeeper Gayle was always the soul of discretion, and she saved me from myself any number of times. Unlike many competent bookkeepers though, Gayle doesn’t have any problem with leaping up from the keyboard to go and load a truck, or drive it off on deliveries. She’s a very capable woman. Gayle has stepped in to help Mariquita Farm and my family many times over the years. She’s one of the people I know who are calm and principled and empathetic in a way that makes you want to be a better person. All these years later I am happy to call Gayle a good friend.
Thinking about Gayle is bringing me back to Organic Matters. While I worked there I ended up filling in wherever I was needed, which put me behind the sales desk at times. I remember one day looking up from my phone when Dorothy was clearing the air with Russell, a delivery driver, over some egregious failure on his part. “Honestly, Russell,” she said. “Sometimes I think you really don’t like driving.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Miss Dorothy,” Russell replied. “I LOVE to drive- I just effing hate to stop.”
We got a kick out of that answer. What is food distribution if it’s not about stopping to unload food?
This week we’ll be stopping for you. I’m happy with this box. It’s winter, which is always a hard time on the farm, but the box is looking good. There are a few things that I ought to mention, though; If you’re not going to use your Hamburg parsley right away then you should cut the leaves off and store the roots in a sealed bag or container. The Yellowstone carrots are bagged up with any of the stray Parsley roots that fell off in the harvest, so you can put them together. Hamburg parsley is a very fun crop; you can cut the roots up into chunks and cook them with potatoes if you want to make an herbal infused mashed potato dish. Parsley roots are good roasted too, along with carrots, beets, radishes, or turnips. Speaking of turnips, the Tokyo turnips in your box will roast up great, and the greens are tender enough for salad.
The citrus in your box is a mix of a number of different kinds of citrus from our friend, Zea, at Fruitilicious Farm. Zea is my “citrus coach.” Her orchard is just up the hill from our farm, so I figure if crops grow well for her there, they should do well for me. Right now the mix that Zea can harvest includes some, if not all of the following:
Valentine Pummelo –
A very pretty half-pummelo hybrid from UC Riverside involving the very interesting acidless ‘Siamese Sweet’ pummelo crossed with a Dancy-Ruby Blood Orange hybrid. Delicious flesh is juicy and sweet, with a thick rind that makes it easy to peel.
Bloomsweet “Grapefruit” (Pummelo) –
(Citrus obovoidea) Also known as Kinkoji in Japan. Large yellow grapefruit-like fruit, but without the bitterness typical of grapefruit and with a thick rind like a pummelo. Chewy but pleasant flesh makes interesting juice.
Vanilla Blood Orange –
Vaniglia Sanguigno in Italian. This is an acidless orange with lovely pink flesh that is best blended in juice with tart citrus or other oranges. Sweet and juicy, but a bit insipid by itself.
Fremont Mandarin –
Very sweet and juicy mandarin with few seeds. Small to medium size fruit is dazzling orange.
Meyer lemon —
Not a true lemon because it has some mandarin in the gene pool, but with a nice tart punch that’s got some sweetness too. Juice one of these with the Vaniglia for a glass of very interesting orange juice.
We strive to bring the familiar favorites to your kitchen but we also like to bring you the unique crops that each season has to offer.
Did someone say it’s March!?
Andy and the Crew at Mariquita Farm
© 2021 Essay by Andy Griffin.
Photo of Gayle by Debra Baida.
Photos of citrus (except as noted) by Zea Sonnabend.
Photo of Meyer Lemons by Andy Griffin.