Greenhouses / by Karie Luidens


While my garden continues to grow back home, these days I’m elsewhere from 7am till quittin’ time Monday through Friday, transplanting lettuce seedlings and pruning tomato plants and harvesting baby cucumbers in a professional greenhouse.

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That greenhouse: 85 degree Fahrenheit, 90% humidity, a vegetable-scented sauna of a workplace. So. Much. Sweat. Sweat continuously trickling down your breastbone to your stomach as you stand on tiptoe to reach for the highest-hanging cucumber. Sweat dampening every crease of your clothing so it folds heavily into your flushed skin as you squat down again to pick the lowest cluster. Sweat dripping down your spine and straight on past the waistband of your jeans as you advance to the next trellised vine. Sweat gluing stray hairs to your forehead and frizzing out the rest into a face-framing mane of frazzled blonde. Sweat pooling around your glasses and making them slide down your nose. Sweat dripping into your eyes with a burn so startling that your vision blurs on one side for a good ten minutes.

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After all that, once you’ve filled a couple bins with fresh-picked cucumbers, you carry them outdoors and have an instant of SWEET GOD, A DRY WIND, PRAISE BE, upon which you're slammed with a wall of heat all over again, because although you didn't realize while inside that it was conceivable for any other place on Earth to be even hotter, here it is. The dusty outdoors with its searing sun—95 degrees to the greenhouse’s 85.

At which point you carry your cucumbers across the farm’s dirt drive to the walk-in cooler, which is 40 degrees. Pushing through the door, you could cry for pleasure because the relief is so indescribably sweet all through your body and soul. The stickiness of the sweat finally starting to dry is the best kind of unpleasantness you've ever felt.

Then it’s back to the greenhouse. Back for more cucumbers, or to prune more tomato plants, or to transplant more lettuce seedlings, because the greenhouse is a veritable assembly line of seeds, water, and nutrients turning out a continuous supply of vegetables for local restaurants and co-ops, and if the farm crew doesn’t stay on top of that supply chain no one will. Back to the greenhouse for a summer’s worth of farming.