On The Farm

Farming and Unearthing Asparagus

I was in heaven driving to my friend Taylor’s asparagus farm in Yakima Valley, Washington. The morning was sunny and beautiful, nothing like the stormy day prior — typical Yakima spring weather.

I drove along the two-lane road passing acres and acres of white and pink flowers bursting from fruit trees. There are more trees than cars in the region, and that’s the way I like it.

The brown dust in the open fields had settled following the morning plow — yes, brown is beautiful. It’s a sign that seeds are about to be planted. A lot of effort goes into preparing the soil before a major planting, you know. Farmers just don’t throw down seed and hope for the best!

I love living in the wide-open country in Washington. Don’t get me wrong, living in a city has its benefits (from what I hear), but country living is for me. I don’t know what I like more, nature or people.

Spring is in full swing, so farms across the region are buzzing.

I headed to Taylor’s farm to check out his first asparagus harvest of the season. Taylor, 23, followed in the footsteps of his dad and grandfather. Yakima Valley, if you don’t know, is a major grower of fruits, vegetables, wine grapes and hops, so farmers and pickups are everywhere.

Yakima, Washington Farmer

Like most of us who choose to live in the country, Taylor loves being outside. His family farms a thousand-acre field that they lease from the Yakima Indian Tribe.

I arrive at 8 a.m., which is considered late for Taylor, who’s now on harvest time with his days starting at 4:30.

Here’s a look at some of the day’s harvest shots. Taylor supplied the information.

Asparagus Crown

Taylor explains that he plants asparagus in early April. The frost from our spring weather does not harm the fresh planted roots. The roots are planted 6”- 8” apart which then turn to crowns after about two years.

 

Asparagus in different stages

Taylor and his farm crew will harvest asparagus by hand on a daily basis through June so long as the temperature stays above 60 degrees.

 

Taylor's asparagus crop in Yakima, Washington before harvest.

Taylor’s asparagus crop in Yakima Valley, Washington before harvest.

 

White asparagus

White asparagus is the result of the vegetable not seeing any light during the growth process. Apparently, it is milder than green asparagus. (You can see where these asparagus didn’t get any light but Taylor doesn’t grow white asparagus for market.)

 

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This season, Taylor and his family will produce thousands of pounds of asparagus to be distributed and sold throughout Washington. His family doesn’t sell directly to farmers markets or grocery stores. Instead, they sell their crop to a fresh produce distributor who markets the vegetable for sale to the public.

 

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After spending the morning with Taylor (and getting some asparagus crowns to plant in my backyard), I asked Taylor what his favorite part of farming asparagus is. He told me, “I love hauling it from the farm to town.” Note: He drives a truck to town. Not his tractor!

 

 

Editor’s note: This story was originally published April 30, 2016 and reposted in honor of asparagus season and marking HAND + SEED’s one- year anniversary telling food stories.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Reg
    05/02/2016 at 7:57 pm

    Love this post. So much to learn about this area. Rural and farming are just the best things. Looking forward to more stories. Best of luck, Summer.

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