The people who grow things for eating are a fascinating lot, not in an Ivy League intellectual sense but in a down to earth common sense. Ever since Ansel Head’s introduction to these folks while working as a fruit tester in his grandfather’s produce department (his “Best Job Ever”), he has thought them worthy of study.
On several occasions, Head had tilled his own garden in the hope of emulating the planters’ feats. “How hard could it be?” he had asked himself. As far as he knew, none of those bringing produce to the Hill Grocery warehouse had attended Yale or even applied. Head’s gardens, though, failed to produce. Not enough water – too much water, not enough Miracle Grow – too much Miracle Grow (or no Miracle Grow at all), not enough bug spray – too much bug spray, blossom drop, slug abuse, weed defiance, and bird attacks had too many moving parts. The multifaceted complexities of Nature ran contrary to Head’s one track, non-superior mind. The treatise, “Tomato Plants for Dummies”, was no help. Peach trees, producers of another favorite fruit, were out of the question. He had heard that growing green peas was a snap, but he couldn’t stand the sight, smell, or taste of the little buggers. Watching things grow and tending to their every need was not to his liking; at least that’s how he justified his ineptitude.
To underpin his position, he adopted his father’s horticulture career path so clearly stated to his mother prior to their marriage, “I don’t do yard work.”
Observing those who grow things provided Head an easier path to an agricultural education and one more suited to his temperament. His brief forays into truck farming were all the schooling he needed to appreciate the expertise and patience required in letting nature do its thing under close supervision. Even his modest education in economics confirmed that what drives those who grow beautiful, tasty things and share them in small markets and quality restaurants cannot be money. It can only be pride and a stubborn determination to conquer Nature’s vicissitudes.
For Head, his study of the subject required a different regimen. His necessitated rising early, showing up at the markets, and testing the fruit. The old saying that an early bird gets the worm is certainly true at the Pepper Place Market in Birmingham. Southerners who know the difference between a tomato grown by these folks and ones found in grocery stores don’t leave them in that market’s stalls for long. Neither do they neglect the peaches, field peas, watermelons, squash, corn, and everything else.
Requiring a way to demonstrate his commitment to his studies, Head photographed his visits to this famous market and posted his camera’s output in his Photo Gallery.