Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Time Travel Tuesday- Pioneering the Burbs

The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.
-Thomas Jefferson. 

For this Time Travel Tuesday, I am taking a page from Pioneer Woman and making jam while tending to chickens. This play date actually started two weeks ago when we tried to go strawberry picking in Plant City, a farm community in the eastern shade of Tampa Bay. The weather made for an extended peak season, so there were no U-Pick places to be found. But we did find the World Famous Parkesdale Farm Market, a place that is synonymous with Plant City and maybe even strawberries themselves. This family owned roadside attraction has been dishing up strawberry shortcake and farm fresh produce longer than I have been alive (1956). The line snaked around the parking lot. We watched truckloads of oranges go through the cleaning and boxing process along a conveyer belt while we waited in the shortcake line. It is a good thing there was a line, it takes time to decide what to order. Even though there are only two menu items, famous strawberry shortcake or famous strawberry shake, there are nine different “famous” variations. One is big enough to feed a 
family. But who wants to share something this good? We settled on a bit of everything and found a seat inside the farm stand among buckets of sweet onions and trays of herbs.  If you ever have trouble getting your kids interested in eating more fruits and veggies, take them to a farm stand like this. You would think we were in a candy store. Can we get carrots? Can we get peppers? Oh, look at these cucumbers. Can we get these too? Please, Mom.

We still had not finished all the produce from our visit to Parkesdale
when we set off again this weekend in search of a U-Pick farm experience in Plant City. Since this is the end of the strawberry season, flats are going for $4. Now, I get why people camp out all night for Black Friday sales or the coupon clippers who buy two-for-one cat food even though they don’t have a cat. There is a certain rush to getting such a good deal. It helps that it was a spectacular crisp sunny morning and I found something that my teenager is still enthusiastic about doing with me. We should have stopped at one flat. But we couldn’t. We should have stopped at two, but we were caught up in a competitive race to find the largest strawberry in existence. Did I mention they were only $4 a flat? We left when the SUV trunk was full. Four flats. $16 . Six solid hours of cleaning and hulling berries.

I won! 3.5 inches wide.
It felt good to get a little dirt under our fingernails.  Looking back, maybe there was something else that got under our nails and bit us
that morning. As we drove away on a dirt road, I remembered my grandparent’s garden.  I remembered shelling peas on their porch and their canning cellar. I remember my bitter reaction the first time I tasted something that wasn’t fresh and homegrown. I had been bitten all right. Suddenly, an instinct that predates my Midwestern ancestors was activated, something older than agriculture itself. I felt connected to ancient gatherers.

At least, that is what I tried to explain to my husband when we came home with the chickens. There was a feedlot on the way back from the U-Pick farm. Chicks were only $3 just in time for Easter. They make perfect pets. They will provide us with healthy eggs. They will ward off pests in our yard. When all else failed, I simply begged forgiveness and offered him strawberries.

So today to the sound of constant chirping, I am making jam. 35 jars down so far and I haven’t begun
to make a dent in our red jewel collection vaulted in our overstocked fridge and freezer. Too bad chicks don’t eat strawberries. Or do they? I may be from the Midwest, but I grew up in Chicago where the closest thing we had to a farm stand was called “White Hen”, a chain of convenience stores similar to 7-11.
Have you ever had a transcendent farm experience?
For today's "sky's the limit" on what you can learn: The first supermarket. According to Joel Salatin the author of Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World, the first supermarkets in the U.S. appeared in 1946. Prior to World War II, people grew their own food or bought locally.


  1. Yum!! Parkesdale farms is so fun! We made our first trip there this year and we'll be back!

    1. I know. Cant believe we have lived here so many years and never went before. It will be a spring tradition.


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