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Picking Pickles!

One of the things I set out to do with this blog was to tell you about how different foods got from farm to table, or farm to fork, or farm to plate. Last week, I took the opportunity to visit my friend Hannah who grows cucumbers to see what cucumber harvest was like and to spend some time looking at a major summer crop - cucumbers.

Cucumbers ready for harvest on Hannah's farm!

Hannah and I spent 2 years together on the LEAD Maryland program, a 2-year agricultural leaders fellowship. It was a great opportunity to see the vast diversity of Maryland farming operations and agriculture across our state from the Atlantic Ocean to the Appalachian Mountains. We even got to travel through Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Taiwan together as part of LEAD Maryland's international agriculture seminar. . But enough about that, today we're talking cukes!

Hannah and her harvester....
Hmmm, sounds like the title of a children's book doesnt it?!

Hannah grows about 1000 acres of cucumbers each year. Because cucumbers have about a 45 day time period from when cukes are planted until they are ready for harvest, Hannah is able to double crop, meaning, planting and harvesting cukes twice, so it actually takes only 500 acres to grow 1000 acres worth of cukes. All of their cucumbers go for processing to local and regional pickling companies like B&G Foods in Hurlock, MD, Vlasic which has a processing facility in Delaware and Mount Olive which has a facility in Pennsylvania. Hannah's cukes are delivered to the processor by the tractor trailer load within hours of being picked and processed the same day. Cucumbers are highly perishable so they need to get where they are going and into the product they are being made to retain the highest quality.  At the processors, they are placed onto sorting tables and graded and sorted by size to determine which pickle product those cucumbers will go toward. The cukes are made into various pickles if they make grade, and are processed into relish if they do not. She strives to grow pickle-grade cucumbers because she does not get paid for relish-grade cucumbers. Those are sort of deemed "seconds" and the farmer does not get paid for seconds.

Click the arrow in the image below here to watch my video of Hannah's cucumber harvest!