Tomato Time!

To every thing there is a season,

And a time to every purpose under the heaven;

A time to be born, and a time to die;

A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted…

Ecclesiastes 3

Finally, tomato time is here on First Fruits Farm!  After a rather strange warm spell in early spring, seems like the real warming has just started, and we know from US agricultural zone maps it’s finally safe to plant tomatoes.  And planting has taken place: about 20 volunteers came out and planted about 1100 Mountain Fresh tomato plants, and 1500 green bell pepper plants.  The plants are the gift of Kevin Fabula, who grows them with the intention of donating to triple F (that’s the insider’s jargon for First Fruits Farm, so now you’re an insider, too). God bless both Kevin and the multitude of volunteers for getting all these plants in the ground, just in time for abundant rain.

Let’s talk a bit more about the tomato itself, the Mountain Fresh variety.  Mr. Dan (that’s Dan Millender, one of the farm’s main men), says this particular variety is practical because when it’s ripe it retains firmness, so the tomato can be transported in good shape to the Maryland Food Bank and all the other destinations where hungry people are fed. It can get to be about a pound in weight, so could be used for a tomato sandwich.  Mr. Dan confides that his favorite tomato sandwich is on lightly toasted white bread with bacon. lettuce and mayo.  My own favorite is on toasted to within an inch of being burned whole grain bread with mayo, Vidalia onion and fresh pepper.  What’s your favorite? We’d love to hear.

The tomato plants may be strung up this coming Memorial Day weekend.  Stakes will be placed on either side of the plants and string tied to the stakes.  As the plants grow they will remain upright so the fruits don’t trail on the ground and rot.  Before staking, though, one more pass through the rows to turn up the ground and discourage weeds will be made.

And speaking of rot, that’s always a concern when we’ve gotten as much rain as we have lately, all at once.  Mr. Dan says he’d rather have more rain than less, though, and so far the potatoes, planted several weeks ago, are doing just fine. This year about 80% of the seed has germinated. And both corn and beans have germinated and are growing fast. Praise the Lord!


– Elizabeth Tracey


Coincidence or God’s timing?

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I was a little shaky this morning. Yes, some of it might have been due to the caffeine in the Extra Strength Excedrin I took for my blooming migraine, but I think most of it was due to an early morning experience that set all synapses firing. I was on the return leg of the morning carpool drop off, just a few miles from home, and as I approached an intersection a pickup truck coming from my left blew right through the stop sign. I exclaimed and honked, thought wow, lucky break and then made my way home. I know it wasn’t luck and I can’t stop thinking about the timing.

These things happen countless times each day, sometimes with no impact and sometimes with devastating consequences. Two and a half years ago, Tim Wheatley was driving his 9 year-old daughter Sarah to school on his way to work when a truck coming from the left blew a red light and broadsided their car. Tim was killed instantly and Sarah was critically injured. The circumstances were chillingly similar to my near miss this morning.

Pat Goodman, Senior Pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Timonium, Maryland, often reminds the congregation of God’ sovereignty with these words: “You go no place by accident.” I firmly believe that the timing this morning was no accident, and if I had approached the intersection earlier and things had turned out differently, that God’s timing still would have been perfect. I have no idea why God allowed Tim’s life to end prematurely, for Sarah to suffer physical harm and for the entire Wheatley family to endure such a profound loss, yet I still trust His timing.

Tim’s wife, my dear friend Beth, told me that while walking down the hall at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center after being warned that Sarah might not survive, she prayed with each step, “Your grace is sufficient…Your grace is sufficient…Your grace is sufficient…” Thankfully, miraculously, Sarah did survive and you can learn a little about her recovery in this video clip produced by Hopkins Children’s Center.

As Christians, we are taught to give all our worries to God. Jesus said in Matthew 6:28-9: “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” This is easier for some of us than others, as some are born worriers while others are more able to surrender their fears. It can depend on the magnitude of the circumstances too, of course. When it comes to my children, I have to relinquish my concern for their safety and well-being to the Lord on a daily basis.

Tiara Swenson touches up trim with the support of Gemma Zigman.  Both are members of Hopkins Farmhands.

Here at First Fruits Farm, we rely on God’s timing in myriad ways, from big issues like the safety of our volunteers as they maintain and operate farm machinery to relatively minor things like the number of hands needed on a given day just as the crops are ripe for the harvest. It wasn’t luck that delayed the rain on Saturday so that the ServeFest volunteers could work to help prepare the farm for the growing season. Not only did God take care of the weather, He brought the ideal mix of skills, personalities and energy to the farm to make the day just what He intended it to be. And it was no accident that the ServeFest crew included Sarah Wheatley.

Diann Churchill