Thanksgiving. You know the history. The holiday was established way back when the pilgrims celebrated their first harvest in 1621. So for a farmer it has a special meaning that ties us closely to the original celebration. Perhaps we farmers just feel a little more pilgrimmy(is that a word?) on Thanksgiving Day.
I always am annoyed by the way the marketing folks have twisted the purpose of the celebration. Words like “Thanksgetting” and “Thanksgathering” are substituted to try to sell products and change the focus of the day. It’s all about turkey and football and shopping it seems. Kinda drives me crazy. Why can’t we just have a day to thank our Creator for sustaining us through another year? Isn’t that why the holiday was established, after all? Ok, enough already. I’m starting to sound like Andy Rooney.
Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday for me. Perhaps because I grew up on a farm it did have that added sense of celebration. But 30 years ago this Thanksgiving week my dad, Jim Moelker, passed away after a very short battle with a very aggressive cancer. It was tough for all of us to lose him, and even though it has been a long time I can still remember that day as though it was yesterday. It made for a very difficult Thanksgiving week that year, and though time has eased the loss over the years, there is always a tinge of sadness attached to the season for me now. It didn’t seem fair at the time, and though my sense of “fair” has matured over the years it still touches my heart. Dad was a man who taught by example more than by words, and my knowledge of growing fruit for the most part came from him. He and my mom sacrificed a lot to raise us five children and teach us what was right. I don’t think we ever realized that at the time though. Working beside him every day created a different dynamic for me. Not only as father and son, but also teacher and student and perhaps even boss and employee? But we also fished, hunted and snowmobiled together and I learned a lot of life lessons from him. A multi-faceted relationship to say the least!
Jim and Tom July 1981
The years since dad passed have taught me that thanksgiving isn’t just a reaction we feel quickly when we receive something we like. It goes much deeper than that. It is a peace, a quiet calmness that comes from knowing that whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in, God is there too, working on our behalf. And while we can’t always see it, I certainly didn’t back then, that knowledge can keep us truly thankful in good times or bad. Isn’t that what the holiday is really about?
So I hope you take some time to reflect on the people in your life this Thanksgiving season. They have been put there for a reason, and in many ways, great and small, they are a blessing to you. And take time to be a blessing to them too!
In memory of Jim Moelker 1924-1986
Have a fruitful (and thankful) week!
The seasons are changing rapidly now. The temperature is dropping and the sun isn’t staying up as long anymore. The days are getting shorter and things may be slowing down on the farm, but in the bakery we are still going strong. We’re making fresh donuts every day and bringing our fudge to craft sales on the weekends. Craft sales are a fun way to get off the farm for a while to sell our products and meet new people. Our employees enjoy those days too!
Courtney showing off our display at the Jenison Christian craft sale
We also did a fudge fundraiser this year with a local high school. It was extremely successful and we are rushing to get 300 pounds of fudge orders filled. The nice part with fudge is that we can make it a few days ahead of time, unlike donuts. With donuts, we make them all the same day that we sell them to you. This is what causes the 3 o’clock mornings on Saturdays in October. We don’t mind though because the happy customer’s smiles are plenty of a reward for the early mornings. You may be wondering how many donuts we make on those busy Saturdays. Our biggest day was about 3,800 donuts! All with a little machine that puts out a maximum of 28 dozen an hour. Thankfully, I have a lot of dedicated and caring employees (and family members) that are willing to put in the hours with me to make sure everything gets done. Whether it’s coming into the bakery early to mix donut batter for me, or coming back out after hours to make apple dumplings!
Travis and I making dumplings and cookies on a Friday night
We enjoy those busy days, but it certainly is nice to be able to “sleep in” until 5:30 now on Saturday mornings. The slightly slower days provide rest and the ability to get caught up on things in the bakery that I wasn’t able to get done during the craziness in October. Which in turn helps me prepare for the busy holiday season ahead!
Have a sweet week!
Choices. We all have to make them, whether we like to or not. Some choices we make are difficult but fun. What flavor of ice cream to have is that kind of decision. Some (like the ice cream) have short and sweet results! Others take years to formulate and a lifetime of events result. Marriage comes to mind. Hopefully long and sweet results there! Some people seem to be able to make a choice and move on, not worrying about the consequences. What a blessing! I do not fall into that category, by the way. Just ask my family. I tend to agonize over my choices after the fact and often think I could have made better ones. (Not true of my marriage)!
Here on the farm, choosing what kinds of fruit to plant can be a challenge sometimes. We have hundreds of varieties to choose from, and many of those we have never seen before. Add to that the fact that we have to order the trees 2-4 years before we actually get them. And then it is another 3-4 years before we actually have any fruit in our hands to offer. So we have to guess what the customers will like far into the future. Sometimes it turns out well. Honeycrisp comes to mind. We had never seen or tasted one when we ordered the trees! But oh the joy they bring to our taste buds! There are times when a new variety, the “next big thing”, doesn’t turn out as well. It may be difficult to grow or inconsistent in it’s quality. And in the time between ordering and bearing, consumer demand may have fallen off. Or a newer, better variety may have come along. Then, it’s back to the drawing board.
The trend lately in the fruit industry is to market new kinds of apples as ” Club Varieties”. The nursery or company that owns the patent on the variety limits the number of trees planted and chooses which farms can grow them. The farmer in turn has to pay for the right to grow the trees. Then the fruit, when it is ready, must be marketed through the parent company. The theory is that by limiting production the prices can be kept higher–sort of a supply/demand model. Most of the hot new varieties (i.e. SweetTango, Jazz, and others) are now released that way. While I am not a fan of this model, I understand the economics behind it.
As a consumer you have a lot of choices when you are shopping for apples. With so many varieties available it can be difficult deciding what kind to get. That is why when you come to us for apples, we ask what qualities you like in your apples. How are you going to use them? Do you like them sweet or tart? Do you like your applesauce smooth or chunky? These are the questions we will ask you. And then we’ll try to point you to an apple that will satisfy your tastes.
What kind do I like? Fortunately I can choose a different apple every day if I want to. After all, it’s one of the perks of being an apple grower. And I don’t have to agonize about it because there is always another one to try next. I like that!
Hope you have a fruitful weekend!