PEAS Farm: Garlic Harvest Day

Last Wednesday was one of my favorite days of summer. It was Garlic Harvest Day at the Garden City Harvest PEAS farm.  It’s one of the few days where all the University of Montana student interns get to work together on one big project that takes us all morning.  Let me paint you a picture of the day.

This is the time of summer when everyone at the PEAS farm has gotten pretty comfortable.  Our University interns have been around for almost two months and the Youth Harvest teenagers have settled in after a month of work.  People know what they’re doing.  I notice them confidently teaching a wayward volunteer the proper way to bunch Swiss chard or how to tell the difference between a green bean plant and pigweed.  Not only is everyone feeling good about our work on the farm, we have been around each other enough to breakdown most of our social barriers as well.  So, the Garlic Harvest (it is so momentous that it deserves capitalization) lets us celebrate the bounty of the farm at mid-season and the community of the 2013 PEAS farmers as we work fast and hard to get everything done.

The Garlic Harvest process goes something like this:

1. We grab pitchforks and head out to the garlic patch next to the big hoop house, readying ourselves for the many tugs and yanks that we will be giving to each bulb in our three rows of garlic.  That’s 3 rows of garlic x 3 bulbs across every foot x 100 feet per row = 900 bulbs, give or take a few.

2. We use two trucks, both Jerry –the red one- and Whitey – the white one – to haul the garlic from the field to the barn, being quite careful to keep varieties separate.  Separating the varieties is most important for the sake of saving seed garlic.  Seed garlic means garlic cloves that we re-plant, essentially cloning the garlic each year.  We plant garlic cloves instead of saving the garlic bulbils that grow at the end of scapes because of its greater efficiency, growing a a garlic bulb in one season as opposed to two.  Find out more info about garlic reproduction here.

3. We bundle the garlic with twine, maybe 8 bulbs or maybe 10 or maybe 15 to a bundle, depending on their size.  This requires extremely loud Talking Heads on the speakers, people quick-tying twine, and a semi-careful eye for separating varieties.

4. We hang the garlic all over the barn.  You might have noticed the canopy of garlic when picking up a CSA share.  Some hang low, so watch your head.  We hang seed garlic upstairs in the barn and eating garlic downstairs.

5. We clean up the great big mess we’ve made all over the place of dirt, garlic scraps, and twine.

6. We admire the beautiful site and the quite strong fragrance that we’ve created together.  This year, we finished right at the noontime hour, which means our fresh-picked and fresh-cooked lunch was ready just as we wrapped up.

The day after Garlic Harvest day the 2013 crew was already talking about how memorable it was.  As people walked into the barn that Thursday morning, several interns mentioned, “Wow, I forgot how beautiful it is with all this hanging.”  Many interns also reported that everyone they hung out with in the afternoon of Garlic Harvest Day asked, “Have you been eating garlic?”