Winters were spent ordering seeds from catalogs and planning what and how much to plant in which field. What little spare time there was would include reading, baseball, and a love of the music of Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra. The few winters he was able to spend in Florida, upon arrival he would begin planting tomato and basil plants in his and his neighbors’ yards. It gave him tremendous satisfaction to see the fruit of his labor thriving in the warm Florida sunshine. But he was always anxious to return in March to get on with the plowing and planting as the new growing season began in Andover. It was a routine that never got old for him. That cycle of the seasons was for him life itself.
Several components went into the success of Strawberry Hill Farm. Weather was certainly one, but not the most vital. Lots of sunshine surely helped growing plants, but a lack of rain could be compensated for by irrigation. Fertilizer also played a big part. Maintenance of tractors and other equipment was an ongoing affair.
But the most vital factor was WORK – long hours of often strenuous, sometimes tedious, work, work, work. Peter thrived on it and measured himself and everyone else by how much they produced in a day, whether in baskets, bushels or pounds. Of course, it was not just about quantity. Quality was equally important. No white-tipped strawberries, mushy raspberries (indicated by telltale stained fingers), or undersized corn husks were tolerated. Despite age and fading eyesight, those standards never changed over the years.
Peter always expected the end would come for him one sweltering hot day in one of the fields. But it was only fitting, and far more practical, that it would hold off until the season had ended, with the stand closed and everything tucked away for winter. No doubt he’ll rest easier knowing that he left no unfinished business behind.
As to the future of the farm, for now it will go on, albeit without the presence of that crusty old farmer either sitting high at the helm of a tractor or crouched intently over his lovingly tended crops.