August 21, 2008

For some weeks I’ve meant to write about a favorite part of my farm schedule, which is my weekly delivery route for our CSA customers in Colusa. Every week, on Thursday morning (and often between 6 and 7 am), I depart Arbuckle in my decrepit Toyota wagon to make the hour and forty-five minute route. It takes an hour and forty-five minutes because unlike the other pickup-driving, need-to-get-there yesterday people on the road, I’m just not in a hurry and actually drive the speed limit. Or less. It depends on my mood.

When I first leave Arbuckle, I head out north on the I-5 frontage road, and then turn east to nowhere. My first delivery is to a beautiful, generations-old farm. The kind where the drive from the main road to the house seems to take about 5 minutes in second gear. Why hurry? There are long checks of rice on the right, with dozens and dozens of white and blue herons gliding lazily just above the water. Week after week the rice grows in its way, the bright kelly green eventually giving way to the heavy heads filled with grain. Safflower and other crops come and go on the other side of the long drive. It’s a chance to see a larger farm progress through the seasons in a series of snapshots. Leaving here, I’m really out in the middle of nowhere. Vast tracts of tomato fields, and sunflowers, seem to go on for miles. The starkly beautiful Sutter Buttes loom in the distance under a clear blue sky. I pass the lonely cemetery in Grimes, which tells the sad story of so many early families to have settled the area in the mid 1800’s. Many times the tale can be read on the tombstones……a man marries a young wife. They have several children, some of who never make it past 5 years of age. The children who do survive die in their early twenties, and then his wife passes on. The man is left alone, with all his family having gone before him, until he joins them at last. What a hard, hard life it must have been for these families; yet their legacies are all around me in the form of thriving farms.

The road turns next toward Colusa, an old city laid out in a neat grid against the banks of the Sacramento river, and filled with grand old trees. I meander through the streets, trying to remember which ones have the least stop signs. Since all of Colusa seems to be less than 2 square miles, I’m soon on my way back. The highway passes many agricultural dealerships, but I turn off to take another road through more rice fields. The tomato trucks are omnipresent right now. The largest tomato processing plant in the world apparently resides here in Williams, according to the local paper. Lots of plump fruit dot the roads from having fallen from the trucks. Apparently proposed legislation is pending that would require the trucks to be covered so as to not drop any fruit. That would be a little sad, since seeing tomatoes all over the road is another hallmark of the season. By now it’s between 8 and 9 o’clock, and it’s already quite warm. Another week has passed, and I was fortunate enough to enjoy the sights and sounds of the great machine that brings food to the world.

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