We finally found out what crop was going in across the road.We suspected after the soil was worked over and over and finally bedded and rolled smooth and flat like this. Then for a few days these tractors and other supporting equipment (water truck, fork lift, portable toilets) were parked at the edge of the field. On Sunday planting began. Although I’ve seen the tomato planters (people and equipment) working from a distance I didn’t know how it all worked. There are six seats for people in the front and several shelves for flats of tomato seedlings on the back of the transplanter. (I looked it up and that’s what the equipment is called. One brand name is Ferrari.) A truck hauled in huge wooden crates full of flats of tomato seedlings and the forklift moved the crates from the truck to where they were needed. I walked over there Sunday evening and took more photos.Here are empty crates filled with the seedling trays. They struck me as interesting.
I looked up on Google how the transplanter works and found videos of some smaller ones. In those the person places individual seedlings into funnel shapes that are part of a revolving horizontally positioned disc. There is more to it than that but as the disc goes around and the tractor moves forward the seedlings drop through the funnel thing into the ground.In this equipment there were no horizontal discs with funnel shapes. Instead the seedlings drop down between those two metal “wheels” in the very center of the photo. (The wheel in the foreground is the one of another pair, but the other wheel is just out of the photo to the left.) You can barely see a left-over tomato seedling between those wheels. At least I can because I know it’s there. So the person sits on that yellow seat (and there is another right under where I am taking the photo) and places the seedling in position but I’m still not sure exactly how that part works. Part of the equipment is making a small hole or furrow into which the seedling will fall. At the same time the tractor is driving forward (towards me, the photographer) and the metal wheels serve to fill in dirt around the just-planted seedling. At the same time there are water barrels on the tractor and somewhere that water is being injected into the soil right around the roots.Am I getting a little carried away here about something as mundane as planting tomatoes? I am fascinated with the combination of automation and requirement for people. And living in the Central Valley of California one could use this as a platform to expound on social issues, political issues, and water issues. But right now I’m just interested in that simple question of “how do we get tomato sauce?” because I’m pretty sure that these are processing tomatoes.
I walked around the field (my usual walk Across the Road). The field wasn’t completely planted yet and this little seedling was on top of one of the crates still full of seedlings. I was pretty sure that it wasn’t going to live through the night so I carried it home and planted it. We’ll see if it can keep up with all of it’s kin (if I can save it from gophers). The part of the field that was planted has two rows of seedlings in each bed. They pulled a ditcher along the edges and are beginning to irrigate today. Stay tuned to follow the story of the Tomatoes Across the Road.