Surprisingly large plumes of dust rise from each step I take; the 7am sun, low on the horizon is already exceedingly strong and there's a group excitedly forming around Mas, the beloved proprietor of Masumoto Family Farm, an 80-acre organic peach, nectarine and raisin farm near Fresno.
I join the fray, not wanting to miss any of the orientation and truthfully, the air of fellowship and camaraderie is magnetizing. Since moving to SF, being part of a group, and the companionship that comes along with it, is more rare (getting better by the month, but still fairly infrequent); I feel a sense of oneness with everyone present because we're all preparing for the noble task of harvesting.
While I feel light hearted and the instructions are simple enough, there's a sense of responsibility...Mas and his family have spent all year fully committed to extremely long hours, stress surrounding weather conditions and hard physical work to ensure a spectacular crop and now we're here to pick the last of the fruit for the season.
The well thinned trees are heavy with fruit and the orchard feels both solemn and majestic, like a place of worship. We're grateful for the shade they provide as we all begin to gently squeeze peach after peach to ascertain if it is the right time to pluck it from a branch, its birthplace and home. Empty boxes become full and our hands become sticky from devouring robustly ripe fruits, dusty skin and all. My harvest team and I all talk cordially and easily, the fruit and the task at hand tying us together, creating a bond amongst strangers that is so effortless...it's easy to forget we aren’t all old friends catching up and shooting the breeze.
Hearing Mas and his family speak of their work both in person and through their writings, it's abundantly clear that with all their efforts, they hope to create something special with each tree and every fruit; they are undoubtedly accomplishing this, but I believe their true gift is the community they're building one peach and nectarine at a time - the beauty of this is that fruit lasts a season, but community lasts a life time. I won’t soon forget my experience in Del Rey and the feeling of how blessed I felt to be a part of the Masumoto family and farm, even for just a brief few hours.
Note: I learned of the Masumoto Family Farm tree adoption program from Real Food Real Stories, for more info. about both visit www.masumoto.com/adopt-a-tree-2 and www.realfoodrealstories.org.
Photos by Mya Hwa