By Gary Pahl
4:15AM: My alarm goes off
5:00AM: I say hi to Pete and Laura at Holiday Gas station. After that, I radio my brother, Brian, for our morning chat. Brian has already been up for a couple of hours and has begun picking corn. He has to have enough picked for the crew to start packing when they get out to the field at 7AM.
5:15AM: I Look at emails and move into the orders for the day. This is the best part of the day. I love watching the sun come up and the sheer quietness that surrounds us in the morning. By 5:30AM the phone is ringing or I am calling someone else. From 5:30- 6:30AM I print up invoices for the morning runs. This morning we have 34 stops to make either to stores or warehouses.
6:45AM: The bus is off to the sweet corn field along with 35 guys to pack sweet corn for orders. The rest of the crew stays back at the packing shed and starts packing cucumbers, green beans, green peppers, jalapeño, Serrano or Pablano peppers.
We like to keep one crew washing and packing and another crew in the sweet corn field or cabbage field. Usually we pack around 96,000 ears of corn a day and cut anywhere from 8,000 to 16,000 heads of cabbage per day. When the crew is done with corn and cabbage we finish up in the cucumber or pepper field which gets washed and packed the following day.
After the local trucks are loaded and on the road we start loading trucks that are destined for out of town markets. We ship produce to as far south as Houston, Texas and as far north as Calgary and Saskatoon, Canada. Last year we delivered as far as Phoenix, Arizona.
During the day I sometimes feel like a fireman. I am constantly putting out fires that come up along the way or remembering where everyone is and which field they are in. One of the tougher parts is keeping everyone supplied out in the field with bins, cartons, crates, wrap, gas, diesel, etc. We farm in a 12 mile radius from the market, so it is not like we are just down the road a mile or two.
In the early parts of the summer we can have up to 5 tractors going in different fields cultivating, working up ground or planting. We will finish up planting our cabbage transplants that we started in the greenhouse this week which will be ready for harvest in late October.
By late afternoon I have been on the phone or the radio 100-150 times. My wife thinks I am nuts, but if the phone isn’t ringing it means sales are slow. Oh by the way, we are usually still loading trucks for the late orders that have come in. The produce business runs twenty-four hours a day seven days a week.
It is late afternoon and I start planning for the next day, but before we do that I am wondering which irrigator is running or which fields need to be scouted for pests. I then assess what needs to be sprayed for disease or pests. We are a sustainable operation and scout each field twice a week for pests and diseases. We only spray when a threshold of a certain number reaches before we decide to fire up the sprayer. We put pheromone traps in our fields to attract bugs to get a count on which pests are flying and develop a strategy from there.
Usually I get home around 8 pm where my lovely bride of 24 years has a fabulous dinner waiting. We generally have a glass of wine and catch up on what happened during the day. From there I shower and hit the sack and get ready to do it all over again. I once told my father-in-law Larry, “You can get a lot done in a day when you don’t sleep.”