By Lainey Smith
For California farmers, summertime is harvest season, the most grueling period of the year. Late nights, early mornings and almost no sleep are combined with hand picking fruits, vegetables and running harvest equipment on grain crops like corn, rice and wheat. Some crops, like almonds, have to be shaken, swept, and then further processed by a huller and sheller before going to market. Farmers work around the clock to receive a one-time payout for a year’s worth of hard work.
For the rest of us, we get to enjoy the fruits of their labor, literally. Summertime is my favorite time of year in the California Central Valley. Rich green foliage and uniform rows decorate the roadsides. Homemade fruit stands mark every corner. A large plywood sign with the hand-painted letters “Freshly Picked” and “Open for the Season” invite travelers off the well beaten path.
Wednesday nights on Main Street will overwhelm your senses. A live band plays classic rock, savory smoke rises from a barbecue pit and ripe produce in wooden crates is on display at the farmers’ market. Local farms bring their best crops for the local crowd to try and buy. Neighborhood creameries bring artisan cheese samples while bakeries and restaurants bring signature dishes for dinner and dessert. While everything is fresh and delicious, I pass up the kettle corn and homemade ice cream stands and head straight for the chocolate covered strawberries.
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