My sister and I grew up helping our mother prepare lunches for the fields. Now, as a farmer's wife, I join my mother-in-law and sister-in-law to take dinner to the field. When the harvest day begins at 5 a.m. and ends between 9 and 10 p.m., keeping our crew nourished is our contribution to harvest.
A meal served fieldside serves more than the purpose of eating for energy. It is the one break in a 12- to 14-hour day that requires the crew to stretch and stand, breathe in some fresh air and converse with each other face-to-face versus through a static-y radio.
Preparing a meal for fieldside dining is one thing. Being prepared to serve, eat and clean up fieldside is entirely another. Here are a few tips I use:
-- Stock a picnic basket with plates, cups, plastic silverware, napkins and garbage bags. A box of gallon-size Ziploc baggies are good for those to-go requests.
-- To-go clam-shell containers are amazing. I always keep some in the car for that equipment breakdown that leaves a driver repairing instead of dining with the others.
-- Keep plastic, disposable serving spoons at the ready. No one wants a good kitchen serving spoon left amongst corn stalks to be flattened by a tractor. (Yep, that's happened.)
-- Mix a pitcher of lemonade or iced tea to serve with dinner. Pack a cooler with water bottles and single-serve milk for a to-go refreshment.
-- A field-worthy blanket is necessary for those who would like to sit rather than stand. A blanket that can be tossed in ditch grass, on a bed of soybean or corn stalks, or in the dirt; that can withstand spills, stains, rips, and mud; and can sit fieldside overnight waiting for the next day's meal. (Yep. That's happened, too.)
Katie Pratt writes, tweets, farms and keeps her farm crew fed from north-central Illinois. Find her blog at theillinoisfarmgirl.com, and follow her on Twitter @KatiePratt4.
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