Archived Story

Day on the farm keeps journalism appealing

Published 12:20pm Tuesday, June 18, 2013

John Neighbors’ farm in Coosa County is pretty awesome.

Even with growing up in rural Tennessee, my farm experience is limited. Memories of picking blueberries exist faintly in my mind, but that’s about it.

Friday the opportunity arose for me to visit Mr. Neighbors’ farm as part of a story for the paper. “It’s not really my thing” was the sentiment that briefly crossed my mind, but that short trip across the county line really changed my perspective.

Mr. Neighbors explained all about his irrigation system and the different types of produce he was growing – acres upon acres of citrus, apples, plums, berries, nectarines and more.

It bowled me over, the idea that one man – admittedly with some help, he was quick to point out – could run an operation this massive.

After I snapped a quick photo of him next to rows of satsumas, he offered to tour me around the rest of the farm.

I couldn’t say no.

We hopped in his pick-up truck, and so began my brief education on fruit-growing.

Mr. Neighbors showed me the misting tent. He explained persimmons – a fruit that left a bad taste in my mouth, quite literally, as a child – and how the Japanese variety was less astringent.

He taught me how to tell whether or not blackberries and blueberries are ripe – apparently, even when they turn that pretty ripe color, they are still a week or so from being fully ripened; you have to watch for them to lose their shine.

He even gave me a couple taste tests.

I learned about the proper harvesting time for melons, that you can eat the skin of peach and that Mrs. Neighbors makes the best blackberry cobblers – and on a frequent basis – during the season. My mouth sure was watering then.

The whole farm smelled amazing, and with the breeze blowing through my hair, this sense of contentment settled over me.

Some days as a journalist become mundane. Some days you spend spell checking calendar items, updating restaurant scores and formatting news briefs, trying to stay productive as you glance longingly out the window.

But some days you hop in a pickup truck and bump along a dirt road past Queen Anne’s lace and a small wooden shack that’s been dubbed “corporate headquarters,” the taste of fresh-picked fruit on your tongue and visions of sugarplums (and oranges and apples and blackberries) dancing in your head.

Those are the days that remind me why journalism is the best job in the world.

James is a staff writer for The Outlook.