April is asparagus season on the produce side of the farm. It’s a full time operation as it must be picked every day, not to mention the sorting, packing and marketing. Half of the crop was started from crowns in 2008 and the other half from seeds in 2009. Production is up this year and we have to make time to plant tomatoes and weed potatoes. To pick the asparagus we ride a homemade harvest aid we call the “asparagus picker”. A long time ago it was a Ford Galaxy 500 but all we really used was the wheels and transmission. It goes very slow but if you are in the seat picking the asparagus, it feels much faster. The person in the middle of the picker has to be good at multi-tasking since they rest their feet on the steering bar and steer with their feet. It takes 3-4 hours to pick the field, depending on how much asparagus there is- which determines how fast we can drive. If the weather is pleasant it’s a pleasant few hours but it can be uncomfortable if it gets cold and rainy. The asparagus field is about 5 acres. There are 48 rows, 1000 feet long. We cool the asparagus as fast as we pick it- after each round in the field the asparagus gets dunked in cold water and stored in the walk-in cooler.
To pick the asparagus we break it off by hand, taking only the tall ones, leaving the short ones to grow. Not all the asparagus is marketable- the bent heads or skinny asparagus ferns we pick but only as a weeding measure to keep the field clean and production up. We try to only put the good ones in the crates nice and straight so when it is time to bundle them it is not a tangled mess. At least that’s the goal! The other goal is to pick so fast that you can’t see your hands. One thing for sure is that we get a lot of practice to be fast, accurate, and professional asparagus pickers.