Peddling the fall harvest

By Helena Rodriguez

About this time of year, as leaves turn auburn, orange and yellow; bright pumpkins, straight from the patch, add to the colors of the season as they begin appearing at roadside stands.
Fall time also means harvest time, a time when passersby can still get the last tastes of summer — in the form of fresh produce — before the first winter frost sets in.
Pumpkins crops are reportedly good this season and with Halloween just around the corner, are in big demand, according to Margie Plummer, manager of the Portales Farmer’s Market, which is held on Mondays and Thursdays at the corner of West 1st and South Ave. B in Portales. Next week will be the last official week for the Portales Farmer’s Market until next year, although Plummer did note that sellers can still sell their produce, if they choose to, for a few more weeks.
In addition to pumpkins, folks are also eager to buy garden-fresh chile peppers, tomatoes, watermelons, cucumbers, okra, potatoes, onions, honey dews, radish, leek and squash. And although much of the produce is late this year because of dry weather and hail, for shoppers such as Brandi Rawdon, it’s better late than never.
“I look forward every year to getting pumpkins for my son to decorate for Halloween and to getting chile to roast and make into ristras,” Rawdon said. “I don’t like preservatives stuff they put in food at the stores, so I like to come out to get fresh produce, There’s more variety, plus I like to help out the local farmers.”
Benny Baca of Clovis said he appreciates any kind of business he can get at his back-of-the-truck roadside vegetable stand on Prince and Eighth Street in Clovis. He says it’s a win-win situation. People get the fresh produce they crave and the fruit of his labor provides a small profit that helps him supplement his fixed Social Security income.
“At vegetable stands like this, the food is cut fresh from the vine, whereas at a store, it is kept longer through refrigeration,” Baca said. “You get that fresh-from-the-garden taste.”
Rather than the seasonally popular Halloween pumpkins, Baca said he grows Mexican pumpkins, which he said are more ideal to make delicacies such as pumpkin pies and empanadas. But at his stand on North Prince, it’s the Texas watermelons and potatoes that sell the fastest.
“On a very good day I make $100, but very seldom,” Baca said. “You make a little money, but after paying for water for your plants and gas to haul the vegetables, it’s not that much. It’s something I do to keep occupied, too.”
At the Portales Farmer’s Market, Plummer said sellers all have to grow whatever they sell, and they begin peddling their produce in late summer.
According to Plummer, July and August are the busiest times at the market.
Melissa Young sells her produce at the Portales and Clovis Farmer’s Markets every week. She said the Clovis Farmer’s Market is open on Tuesdays and Saturdays at the JcPenney’s parking lot at North Plains Mall.
“We sell a lot of our produce locally, but we also send a lot of our pumpkins to Alabama and Florida,” Young explained.
According to Young, it’s no easy task raising your own vegetables, and it’s also tiring to pick them and haul them to market when the profit is usually not that much.
But she said her children have enjoyed helping her and she likes socializing with other farmers at the market. Young also knows that customers appreciate farm fresh produce.
“A lot of people used to grow their own food, but now many live in town. Maybe they can’t do it anymore, so the Farmer’s Market is the next best thing,” she said.