My 40-Carrot Parents

freshcarrotsBy now, I doubt my parents are surprised by anything I do. I’ve dragged them along through three (maybe four) different careers, from North Carolina to New York City to Newport and Newtown. Surely this latest venture—farming on Martha’s Vineyard—has given them a chuckle (and a wrinkle) or two. But they’ve never been anything but supportive.

Still, I don’t think they realized that Roy and I were going to put them to work as farm hands when they came to visit last week.

We didn’t have a choice. I don’t get to see my parents much, and I didn’t want to miss spending time with them. But the farm stand has been hopping and there are a zillion plants still to get in the ground (not to mention the daily farm chores of harvesting and egg collecting and washing), and no matter how early you get up, half the day slips by in a heartbeat.

So we had family farm time. This is a most excellent concept, I tell you. Now I know why farmers traditionally had big families. Lots of help! Help that already speaks your language, knows your quirks, and can interpret instructions without a lot of explanation.

Granted my parents, though they are not exactly young anymore (they don’t want me to embarrass them, but they’re probably used to that, too, by now), know their way around plants and fresh food. My Dad is a talented landscape gardener and long-time plantsman, so asking him to turn over soil was like asking him to put on his socks. (And turn over soil he did, de-weeding a huge bed and making it tomato-ready in only a few hours.) My Mom is a great cook and vegetable lover, so asking her to help wash and pack greens was a no-brainer.


Even better than all their physical help was just having them here at the farm to meet friends and customers as they came to the stand. One morning I asked my dad to set up all the tomato plants for our sale (we’ve sold more than 125 tomato plants in the last week or so), and customers started to arrive while he was doing this. He was awesome with the ladies, and convinced one woman to buy five plants!

So he asked me what his commission was, and I handed him a freshly picked English shell pea—the first pod to plump up on the vine. Absolutely delicious, he mused. And each morning I set aside little baby carrots for Mom, who loved these sweet and crunchy treats that are now coming out of the hoop house.

They were plenty happy with the peas and carrots, and even happier with the fresh salads we ate at night from the garden. Cheap help, yes, but still the most precious kind. At this point in my life, I feel lucky to have two healthy parents who are willing to drive hundreds of miles to see me (and bring treats, too, like a chest freezer and a table saw!). So what the heck, today I think I’ll call them my 40-carrot parents.


Susie Middleton is the author of Fast, Fresh & GreenNot so Pretty, a cookbook of delicious vegetable side dishes. She is the former Editor and current Editor at Large for Fine Cooking magazine. She lives, writes, cooks, and grows vegetables on Martha's Vineyard. Her blog is at <