Thursday, June 24, 2010

What We Do

I thought I would let y'all in on what we do all day. If you read Maters and Melons (poor, poor, neglected blog), then this will be a recap, so I apologize. If not, you are in for a real treat...(wink, wink...)

So, first, we have to decide that the tomatoes are ready. They are usually ready sometime around the 5th of June. This year we were a little late and started on the 8th; we actually could have started a little earlier, but it doesn't just depend on the tomatoes -- it depends on other factors such as the market price (which hasn't been great this year) and other players in the market. We don't want to start when there are too many others picking because then we will flood the market and drive the price down, so we try to wait until Florida finishes up, and they were a little late this year, too. But, that is too much information, so let's move on...

Once Florida finishes up, the pickers and packers move on up to our farm. We bring in about 600+ workers to do this little summertime job. We get everyone signed up in a hurry, and we start to pick. We have about 400 people in the field picking the tomatoes.
Each picker gets a bucket to fill with green tomatoes. Once he (or she) is finished with the bucket, he takes it to the truck, where someone is waiting to dump it into a bin. In exchange for the bucket, the picker gets a token; at the end of the day, the picker turns in his tokens so that he can be paid for the number of buckets that he picked throughout the course of the day.

Once all of the bins on the truck are full, the truck heads to the packing house where the bins will be weighed and taken off the truck. They are then stacked in the back of the packing house and wait to be dumped into the machines.

The first stop after being dumped into the machine is the bath:

The tomatoes then get graded. We have people along the line looking at the tomatoes as they pass by culling out the bad ones and putting any that have any color on another belt. We have 205 employees in the packing house this year.

Next come the sizers. Tomatoes come in sizes of 5x6, 6x6, 6x7, and 7x7s. These sizes refer to the amount of tomatoes that used to be able to fit in a box when the were put in there by hand. So, a 5x6 tomato is the largest tomato because a box could hold 5 tomatoes across and 6 down.

Then the tomatoes go into the fillers. The fillers hold an empty box and fill the box until it holds 25 pounds of tomatoes. Then it shoots the box down the line where it gets a lid and can be stacked on a pallet.

Finally, you get a finished pallet that is ready to go on a truck. The Sea Island lids that you can see below are our #2 grade tomatoes (our off-grade). Our #1 grades are Frogmores or Seasides.

So, that is a bit of an overview of what happens around here on a daily basis and why I have been absent from the old blog lately! Luckily it is a fast and furious season, but it is over before we know it, and we can relax a little once it is over...and, boy, am I ready for that!


I'maNolaGirl said...

I could read about this over and over again! Before living here, I had absolutely no appreciation for the work and care that went into the produce that we eat. Now, I am just so thankful for each and every bite!

Mary Loyal said...

I love this!! It brought back many memories of the packing house summers! Hopefully I can make it out there one evening with ole Norris before y'all round out the season. And love your bathing suits you picked out; hope the fried chicken isn't pushing you too far over the edge. . . sounds incredible to me :)

Kelly said...

I think what y'all do is so interesting - thanks for giving us a lesson in Tomato PIcking/Packing 101. Hope y'all have a successful season and that you'll get to relax soon!

Have you closed on your old house? When will your new house be ready? I know moving is so exciting, stressful, sad, and frustrating...wishing you all the best as you get settled.

Nicole said...

Wow, that is SO interesting!! I just made some homemade pesto (w/ my little lone basil plant) tonight and ate it on tomatoes and fresh mozzarella - now I have a whole new appreciation!! :)

And by the way, I love that clemson family pic below - makes my heart smile to see some ORANGE! :)

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