Recession Fears and Fruit Theft


Photo by Carol Ann Sayle

Our farm is in the midst of the city of Austin. Two miles from the State Capitol and Downtown, we cultivate the same acreage which was part of the farmland that fed Austin from the 1800s until World War II. After the troops came home, most of our farm and all the others were sold for house lots and commercial enterprises, and agriculture moved to South Texas, California, and Mexico.

Our neighborhood is filled with modest soldier-built houses, with a few of them being scraped off and replaced with new, larger ones, as property values rose during the pre-recession boom. Only in the last two years are we seeing reduced price stickers on real estate signs that tarry too long in front yards. The bad economy has hit deeply on this side of town. Many people are out of work; many are on foot.

If we are working in the field that adjoins the fruit trees, invariably people walking by will inquire as to the "peaches" on the trees. Most are disappointed that they are pears.

The wide street in front of the farm is a well-traveled one, by cars, buses, and bicycles, and by pedestrians. In years past, especially during pear season, the No. 17 bus pauses at the bus stop a couple hundred feet from the pear trees to let riders on and off, and, as if that was an afterthought, quickly makes its way to the trees and to the picker.

Braking sharply to a halt, the driver exits the bus and we chat briefly over the fence. Only a few drivers are familiar with the old-timey Texas hard pears, the Keiffers, the Orients, and the Moonglow, which is my favorite as it has a golden-pink blush on its sunny-side up. If the fruit is ready, I always offer the driver two or three pears. Ditto with the adjacent fig trees, whose fruit comes earlier in the summer.

If we are working in the field that adjoins the fruit trees, invariably people walking by will inquire as to the "peaches" on the trees. Most are disappointed that they are pears, but the other day two men "asked" for the them: "Queremos las peras."

My helper, Andrea, and I told them they were not yet ready; they need a few more weeks to develop their sugar. At the end of August and all through September is harvest time for them. They will still be "crisp," a tastier description than "hard," but by then they will have a delicate sweetness.

However, when folks who seem job-less want something badly enough, even though they are advised to wait, we always say to each other, perhaps not very charitably, "Wonder if they will come back tonight and steal all the pears?"

Larry looked at the pears yesterday and surmised, "You might want to start harvesting them or there won't be any to harvest." The year of waiting for them passed before my eyes; how disappointing it would be to not have them on the market tables during the worst season we've ever seen.

And to think that, if stolen, they wouldn't be eaten by the truly hungry. No, they would be sold for a small sum to a vendor in one of the area flea markets. Or, since they are "crisp," and not what they imagined, they might be simply thrown away in disappointment.

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Carol Ann Sayle is co-founder and co-owner of Boggy Creek Farm, a five-acre urban, organic farm in Austin, Texas.

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