Texas Neighbors Fall 2015 : Page 18

Green with Envy

Jessica Domel

Growing green beans for Texas families

As the sun sets in the Texas Panhandle, harvesters roll over a field of freshly-watered Blue Lake green beans.

It’s the end of the day for most Texans. But for Robert Gordon, his family and the Del Monte harvest team, sundown is the start of a whole new day.

“They start about 30 minutes after sundown,” Gordon, a Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) state director, said. “They check the temperature on the bean. Once it gets to a certain point, they start harvesting.”

The Del Monte team will run the specialized harvester through the fields of green beans until the sun comes up and temperatures start to rise once again.

The schedule may seem a bit backward, but it’s what is necessary to ensure the Gordons are delivering fresh and flavorful green beans to the Del Monte plant in Crystal City—over 600 miles away.

It is the Gordons’ first year growing green beans. The family traditionally grows corn, sorghum for seed, wheat and, sometimes, oats for seed. But this year, they decided to venture out and try organic vegetables.

“We just wanted to diversify our operation,” Gordon said. “It would be really difficult to do our whole operation organic. It just takes a lot of labor and a lot of time.”

Growing organic foods also required a change in practice for the farm family.

“We use compost for our nitrogen phosphate potash. There are some organic pesticides and fungicides, but there are no organic herbicides,” Gordon said.

Because there are no organic herbicides, keeping weeds at bay is a challenge. It often involves a little old-fashioned hand labor.

“That’s one reason 100 percent organic is not sustainable. We can’t get enough help,” Gordon said.

Gordon didn’t enter the world of vegetable-growing alone. He, along with his two sons, Jared and Kent, partnered with Larry Mason to grow 500 acres of organic green beans for Del Monte.

They planted the beans in early July. Just 60 days later, the beans were ready for harvest. The Gordon family could be found, along with the harvest team, walking through fields and taste-testing the fruits of their labor.

“We grew them. They’re safe to eat,” Jared Gordon said. “They’re fresh.”

There was one setback to the Gordons’ inaugural crop. A hail storm destroyed much of the crop—cutting production on the plants by about 70 percent.

“It makes you sick,” Jared said. “Everything looks so good and then, in one night, they were damaged.”

The loss won’t keep the Gordons down. They hope to continue growing green beans for American consumers in the coming years.

The beans they grow are sold through Del Monte in Costco under the store’s organic food label.

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/Green+with+Envy/2275714/273963/article.html.

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