Friday, August 03, 2007

Pick of the harvest

I wanted to share a few photos with Blogriculture readers that were taken today by Capital Press intern for the day, Suzanna Schuck.

Suzanna's story was posted earlier today on the Capital Press website. She had several nice photos from the day.

The photo at right actually did run with the story. This is one Suzanna identified early in the assignment as one of the favorites she had taken, at least up to that point in the day. In the photo you can see Phillip Houston, left, and Zach, the grandson of Hermiston council member Walt Acuff. Houston, who works for the Umatilla Chemical Depot, drove the truck they are sitting on. Houston has been helping with the event for six years, driving truck and passing out produce. On the right edge of the frame is Dolores Ortega of Portland, who was first in line for a watermelon, cantaloupe and 5-pound sack of potatoes.

Another photo that ran with the story is this one of Megan Stein, passing a cantaloupe down from the bed of the big depot truck to a woman on the ground. Megan is the daughter of the depot commander, Lt. Col. Robert Stein and his wife Cindy. The Steins' son Sean was also there to help out. Megan made an impression on both Suzanna and I, which is how she got featured in the lead paragraph of Suzanna's story. Her dad may be in charge of the Army depot at Umatilla, but if you saw Megan in action today, you would swear she was in command of that truck. She was directing traffic and passing out small personal-size watermelons, cantaloupes and sacks of spuds like a she'd been doing it for the entire 17-year-run of the event. All the while she was fearlessly perched on the back of the truck, calling people "sir" and "ma'am," as she asked if they wanted the particular type of produce she had in her hand at the moment. We have some audio of Megan at work. I will try to post that in some way, shape or form, because you just have to hear her for yourself.

For the most part, the real unsung heroes of the day weren't even there and they were the farmers who supplied the produce. But there were three very notable exceptions in (from left to right) Chandi, Brianna and Christie Walker of Walker Farms of Stanfield. Behind them is Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman. In the photo Brianna is telling the crowd that one of the most common questions they get asked is how to pick a ripe watermelon. She shared some of the ways she has seen people try to pick a good melon, but she told the crowd that she couldn't tell them what they do to pick the best melons, because it is a family secret. After all the speeches and a watermelon seed spitting contest, the Walker women, fourth generation growers, showed the male volunteers and assembled crowd how melons get moved around the field. They were pitching melons to one another, and anyone else brave enough to try to catch one, to help unload the trucks quickly. On the day, only one casualty was reported as one watermelon broke open in a fall to red-brick of Pioneer Courthouse Square.

I'll try to post some more stuff soon, here and on, and Suzanna is still scheduled to write a blog post about her experience as an intern for the day.

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