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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Valley Profile: Kurt Biderbost, the Corn King…

Kurt's Vegetables

It’s pickling time in the Valley. Out in the cucumber patch those green gherkins are swelling by the minute, it seems. I swear you can see these little blimps almost lift the leaves. And you can’t let them get ahead of you, else they’ll stop producing: the more you harvest, the more you’ll have to pick. Right now, it’s me against the patch.

My mission this morning is to refill the half gallon jar I use for my year’s quota of “Jan’s Damn Good Pickles,” a recipe heavy on garlic, spices, tumeric, and dillweed. Dill! I don’t grow it anymore. Used to. Plant it once and usually it will volunteer year after year, the stalks sprouting up in random places: a sprig shouldering its way up through the sweet peas, popping up in the tomato patch, making a cameo appearance in the lettuce, but after treating it as weed for several seasons, this pickle mainstay no longer volunteers. Dill! This recipe calls for several sprigs, some whole, some chopped to steep in the brine. And it needs to be fresh. Time to visit Kurt’s vegetable stand just up the road from my driveway.

Kurt Biderbost and his dad Ted have been selling Valley produce at their little stand on SR. 203 since 1979. Most of the vegetables they grow and harvest right in thOpen for businesse Valley. The stand opens during the berry season, strawberries at first, raspberries follow. Then the summer’s vegetable crop kicks in, and the Biderbosts market the Valley’s bounty right on up through squash season when they provide kids throughout the Valley with their favorite squash: Halloween jack-o-lantern pumpkins.

Next to the Frohning clan, one of whom I meet almost daily in my forays in the Valley, whether I’m footing it or tooling Gladys around the Loop, I am most likely to encounter Kurt Biderbost. He rarely acknowledges my wave. Not the lift of a finger. Nary a nod. I think one would be more likely to catch a flicker of a smile from the Sphinx than Kurt.  He is the Valley’s Buster Keaton, less the slapstick, The Great Stone Face. As he drives by, there is a determined, almost grim expression on his face. I suppose he has a world of vegetables on his mind,  corn foremost. Corn is Kurt’s specialty, his big money crop, and in early morning in corn season, you’re likely to meet Kurt and tractor chugging along the shoulder of the road trailed by a bin full of ears fresh from the field.

Kurt’s vegetable enterprise is his sole support for the year, so each growing season in the Valley is of paramount importance. He tells me this season Mother Nature has yielded up a fitful summer; each crop is late this year. Kurt’s vegetable business is just one example of the struggling family farm-- it is a family effort: Kurt’s sister sometimes helps with the sales, as did a brother, who died years ago in a tragic car accident on Highway 2. Today Kurt’s nephew Mike helps at the cash register.Hired hand, MikeThe Biderbosts work very hard for their living. During the growing season, it’s a seven day  around the clock labor—and a constant battle with forces beyond their control. In short, the crops they produce come from just plain hard, grubbing in the dirt work, and they deserve every hard earned dime that comes their way.

Regulars this season at Kurt’s Fresh Vegetables will note something missing: the friendly chit chat of Ted Biderbost. You might say son Kurt was Ted’s straight man: Ted served up his produce with a cheerful banter; Kurt, all business, lives up to his namesake: “curt.” His dad is now in a nursing home, Kurt tells me. Ted is ninety-four, and that he has been able to work the fields and tend the vegetable stand all these years is testimony to his love of the Valley and farming. And I have no doubt that his devotion to the business, to working the Valley soil, plus his admirable work ethic, have contributed to his longevity.

Kurt shares all this with me and agrees to a photo for the Valley Ripple. I pose him with some beautiful Valley lettuce, fresh and green with a lushness almost tropical. (If you look closely, you may even see the slightest hint of a smile.The vegetable king) I select several nice heads of dill, freshly picked and delivered just this morning from the Valley. Kurt looks at my fistful of stalks and charges me one whole dollar. (A comparable bunch at Fred Meyers is $2.69—and that’s the sale price, too! Who knows when that dill was delivered or where it was grown.)

These days there is a resurgence of farmers’ markets. Kurt’s Vegetable stand is Valley Produceone of the oldest in the Valley. Whatever I can’t—or don’t--grow in my own backyard garden, I try to buy from Kurt. In fact it is Kurt’s garlic that will season up this year’s “Damn Goods” and the “One Jar at a Time Dills.”

Before I head out to the cucumber patch, let me put in a plug for Kurt, the Valley’s Corn King, and his vegetable stand. If you want beans crisp and snappy, not limp and Gumby rubbery, lettuce ready to crunch up your salad, green onions with the morning dew droplets yet clinging to their tops, rock hard garlic and cabbage, root vegetables plump and full of Tualco Valley nutriments--bounty of the Valley at its freshest-- stop by and visit this Valley institution. Help keep him in business—and yourself—healthy. Kurt will appreciate it. The honor box And this season’s corn? Kurt says to look for the first brimming bin full of the Valley’s sweetest next week.


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