The Beet

For some people when asked what they remember fondly about their birthdays when they were growing up, their answer most likely involves a favorite toy or the super good cake their mom made them or even a party that was thrown in their honor. For me, what I recall most is coming home from school, tearing off my school uniform that suddenly felt unbearably hot and stuffy in exchange for lighter clothes I would dig out of my dresser. Noting the wear and tear on them, I would hope that I’d get some new ones as gifts at the party my parents were throwing me that night as I raced outside to enjoy the sunny afternoon. The smells of the blooming wild mustard in our orchard would permeate my senses and the cool breeze offered much relief so that I’d forget that last painful hour of the school day where we learned to diagram sentences while staving off the sticky heat accumulated by a game of tag at lunch recess. Our dog Rex would run alongside me, his tongue hanging out, his black coat glimmering under the sun, his jog exuding only pure joy.

As an adult I still lean on my birthday to show me the first signs of Spring. Like New Year’s, this change in numerical age represents a fresh, new beginning always filled with hope and optimism for the year ahead. This year our farm was not conducive to taking a stroll around the fields given the recent rains. Our soil being heavily clay causes it to remain a pool of slippery mud that I’ve fallen in too many times to take the risk this year.

Fortunately, this same day I scheduled a meeting with Andy Griffin, owner of Mariquita Farm, to discuss crops he will grow for us this year. Even more fortunate for me was that we agreed to meet at his field a couple miles from our farm in Hollister and even though it’s pretty close to us, it’s not as clay-based so we were able to take a turn around his patch while talking. And while Rex is no longer around to share the Spring day with me, Andy’s dog Red was a great replacement. Andy showed me the devastating patch of fava beans he lost to frost earlier this year but quickly uplifted my spirits by pointing to a couple of fields yonder that had a new planting.

During our chat about the tomatoes and potatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers, Italian Melons and spring beans and greens he will grow, Andy entertained me by sprinkling in stories throughout the conversation of his dealings with the 50 restaurants he serves all over the Bay Area. The bees buzzed. The birds chirped. We shared plenty of laughs. It was an all-around perfect planning meeting. So when people ask if I enjoyed my day this year, I wholeheartedly say yes as I remember those few hours on a Spring afternoon working out numbers and produce varieties, dodging puddles of mud while Red did the same.