Autumn comes to Dayton’s Smith & Smith Farms
October 3, 2004
The final harvest had been collected.
The sun slipped out of its summery yolk, and the weathered colors of autumn took over deeply in the Dayton Valley at Smith & Smith Farms midday Sunday.
Corn stalks were brittle and crows shouted from their circular heights as pumpkin-gutting season kicked into full swing.
The desert ground crunched underfoot, and everything seemed impossibly dry. But just as a sticker insisted in the barn, this is Nevada, and, yes, “People Grow Things Here!”
Brenda Smith and her family run the namesake farm, growing everything from strawberries to jalapeño peppers to baseball talent – the latter on a homemade field near the house.
“The kids’ goal is to hit the ball onto the barn roof,” she said.
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Dressed in overalls and a straw hat, she watched the farm’s customers, who come to buy their veggies every week during the growing season, as they came for the final time of the year, to pick out Halloween pumpkins and feast on the fall harvest at a picnic set up inside the barn.
“Most of our customer base comes down from Carson City,” she says. “This is our final day of the season. It’s a celebration – an early taste of Thanksgiving.”
Roasting on the barbecue were turkey and a leg of lamb from Joe Ricci’s “all-natural” Dayton Ranch. Ricci says he follows the principles of responsible livestock farming: He doesn’t feed beef to his cows. It shows in the clean, non-gamey taste.
The autumn picnic was fast under way inside the unpainted barn. Music poured from guitars played by a couple of the ranch hands.
Cashion Callaway served up squash in a tasting booth. There’s sweet potato squash, Thelma Sanders squash, winter squash and more.
She dressed a sample with pepper, dipped it into a cup of butter, and placed it in a tiny paper confectioner’s cup.
“You’ve got to try the butternut,” she said, whipping up a sample before a customer can even decide for or against it.
Squash, like their cousins, the cucumber and pumpkin, are gourds, “Mother Nature’s strange experiments,” said one man, looking over a tableful of the ghoulish anomalies, apparently trying to decide if they come from somewhere deep underwater or somewhere deep in outer space.
As the band played “Put Your Little Foot Down,” 21Ú2-year-old Espe Harmer of Carson City proudly picked out a pint-size pumpkin and carted it off toward her mother.
A friendly, drunken-looking scarecrow peered through its button eyes from across the barn. The long, hard work of summer is done.
Contact reporter Peter Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1215.