First a poem, then her voice cracks, the emotional toll of the last six months is palpable and rolls into the crowd. Nikiko is recounting how challenging the 2019 growing season has been...unusual monsoon-like rains, hail storms and higher than average temperatures. As the sun peaks over the orchard, we can feel the full range of sadness, frustration, grief, hope and determination the Masumoto family has experienced throughout this year. A sense of gratitude emanates from us all, it’s clear that each one of us is ecstatic to be here, we know it’s not a given and each season we can be invited back to harvest is a blessing...a chance to come together again to take part in something sacred, thanks to the cooperation of Mother Nature and the Masumotos’ exertions.
I’ve been counting down the days since July 28, 2018 to reunite with my stone fruit family. The pillow soft soil giving way under my boots, the morning rays playing amongst branches heavy with fruit, contented voices floating upwards alongside the billows of dust, the glee of filling vibrant blue buckets to the brim, fully aware each nectarine and peach picked is a small miracle.
Being back at the orchard with ‘our trees,’ I’m taken over by a wave of awe and enchantment. Somehow I’m lucky enough to participate in Masumoto’s harvest for a few hours because they’ve unflinchingly dedicated 365 days of grueling work to ensure their trees will bear a bounty I can reap. And the joy each family member exudes to have us there is remarkable. Their commitment and passion for sustainable farming and building community is beyond words, like a born talent, similar to Mozart composing music, they possess a gift that can’t be stifled and must be shared with the world.
My adoption team is a fun mix of new and familiar faces. As we dive into harvesting, I make new friends and swap stories with pals from last year. After months of anticipation, we’re giddy to see that there are a ton of ripe Le Grand nectarines to be picked, and because this is the last day of harvest, we get to take them all. We waste no time and work diligently, scaling ladders and grasping what we can on our tiptoes - we have a singular, unifying goal: extract all the viable Le Grands!
We move pretty quickly and just as the temperatures are getting close to 100, we’re relieved to have boxed and divided up the whole haul. Ravenous and damp with perspiration, we merrily make our way to the shady center of the orchard for an alfresco brunch prepared by a team of lovely volunteers. The meal is delicious, conversations are easy, Mas and Nikiko swing by to say hello, cheerful dogs sit at our feet and I’m deeply happy.
Adopting a tree at Masumoto’s family farm is not about taking home pounds of fruit, but celebrating this land that has been organically cultivated for 71 years, the camaraderie shared amidst the rows of trees and a magical family that treats you as one of their own.