It goes without saying–a child changes everything. After two years of trying to find a work/family life balance, I decided I needed to make a change and take a break from my 14-year career in social work. I may return some day, but right now having more time with my family has been priceless; even though at times that entails juggling a 2-year-old underfoot. In the moments it is challenging, but in reflection I am able to remind myself that my son is learning and growing through all of the watching and participating in the work. He is also a great reminder to take breaks in the midst of the chaos to laugh, to cry, and find joy in the little things that he finds along the way.
My parents moved here about 40 years ago to raise their growing family away from the hustle and bustle of the “west side” of the state. They began learning farming by trial and error, while continuing their careers and businesses to help fund the farms.
About six years ago they realized that there was a missing link in Yakima—providing their labor of love directly to consumers. The majority of our fruit still goes through warehouse production, but where we can we bring down our main crops of organic cherries, pluots, peaches, strawberries and APPLES to the McIlrath Family Farm Markets.
Bringing large amounts of our crops down the market is an undertaking of labor. Everyone in the markets work the process of getting the apples from the orchard, into boxes, and out on the sales floor of our two markets. Often times I bring a friend or two along to help the process go faster, and for extra eyes on the busy 2-year-old. The trade of fruit and fresh apple cider sangria to friends happens after the work is done, often times long after the markets have closed and we finally get our last truck unloaded.
On a busy Friday I found myself driving around the orchards with a sleeping two-year-old in the back. We roamed around for about an hour to find some bins of apples and pears and load up four bins to take down to our main market. It is late in the season to pick and buy produce, but we are not concerned because every year we donate the excess to our local food banks to ensure we are sharing abundance with our entire community.
The truck comes down to the market, where we begin the process of packaging the apples into boxes.
The apples are put into our walk in fridge, loaded onto a pallet, and then brought to the loading dock where we load, and load, and load—often times with a “helper” underfoot. When the last box is loaded, my son knows it’s time to ask for “HICE CEAM” and without missing a beat, he runs to the cooler and chooses strawberry.
We take the truckload of boxed apples down to our other market, where everyone jumps in to help with the unloading, while others help customers and the most important aspect—entertaining the 2-year-old.
It’s Friday night by the time we are done, so we finish with some sangria, and an apple crisp shared with friends after the 2-year-old is down for bedtime.
Throughout this transition I have learned many, many new life lessons. The lesson that is on my mind today is that we live in a valley of great abundance, in both agriculture and people, and we will continue to grow and thrive as we all continue to contribute the work of strengthening our beautiful community.
Thanks so much, Laura, for walking us through a day in the life of getting your fruit to market (with the help of Owen)!