Fruit Stand Inspiration

We’ve made it a point on this trip to stop at as many farm markets and local groceries as we can. Not only to taste the local flavors but also to talk with the local vendors. Rt. 104 in New York heading north towards New England scuttles you past plenty of roadside fruit stands and family farmers’ markets. But, we unfortunately have to be choosey; not because we’re that picky about our fruits or veggies, but because our RV can be a bit unwieldy. After passing a dozen or so without ample parking, we skidded to a stop in front of a home that sported plenty of room for the RV and car.

We climbed wearily from the cab of the RV and toddled to the stand to review the day’s offerings. We were timidly greeted by Ruth Fisher, the matriarch of the century-old Fisher’s Fruit Farm. Her broad shoulders, delicately bowed back and deep, smart wrinkles hinted at the years of no-nonsense hard work. She had a friendly, cautious gate about her; a bit stern, but approachable.

While Victoria picked through the abundant bounty of pears, peaches, corn, green peppers and tomatoes, bringing each to the only open counter space, Ruth slowly and deliberately tallied our purchases on the face of our brown paper fruit bag. It reminded Victoria of her late Grandpa Lowe who used the same calculator while manning the fruit stands of her ‘tween years.

She tallied and told us that this land had been her in family since the turn of the century, and that all the land in this region and most of the land around Medina used to be family owned. But of course, there are very few left. She told us stories of her father’s sticktuitiveness as he chased opportunity after opportunity to sell his tomatoes, only to see those companies relocate, close or begin producing their own. Today Fisher’s Fruit Farm is a nostalgic little island in a rumbling sea of corporate waves constantly threatening to override the coastline.

While we were standing and talking, one of her 50-year-old sons – the manager of her farm – roars out of the parking lot in his truck, tires squealing. She says he has a lot on his mind, too much to handle and this morning his help hadn’t arrive. With a mother’s concern she tells us it’s just another problem he has to solve when he hasn’t the time to eat what’s already piled on his plate.

But Ruth is upbeat, smiling through her obvious worry. Talking about the recent winds from Hurricane Irene, she expresses genuine concern that some of the other local farmers lost some yield, but was thankful that Fisher’s crop made it through okay. To her, things will work out, and she just keeps her head down, thanks God for what she does have and works hard to keep her and her family fed. Her laugh lines and hollow cheeks prove this is nothing new.

We have no doubt that farming is a tough life with long, hard hours. But, for a woman who admitted she’d never been further west than Niagara Falls (an hour’s drive), she had an understanding of the world that we couldn’t fathom. She’d found paradise, one she had to work for, but it’s what she knows and what she loves.

Self-sustenance is a waning quality in America. Not the “I have my own apartment and my own couch” kind of sustenance, but true, “if I don’t work hard today, I may not eat tomorrow” kind of self sufficiency. If there’s one thing we can take home from this trip, besides Ruth’s amazing overripe peaches, it’s this positive, and loyal work ethic.

We will be sending Ruth some postcards to ensure that she gets a taste for areas outside of her sphere, and perhaps we can inspire her like she inspires us.