Fig. 44. Cart Used Near Boston For Collecting Vegetables.
Vegetables are sometimes packed in the field where grown, when they do not need to be washed or handled very much before packing. There are serious objections, however, to field packing which as a rule does not admit of thorough grading. There is also greater danger of the vegetables going to market without being properly cleaned. It is also difficult to load for market in the field, especially if the ground is soft or the land hilly. The field lacks the proper facilities for packing. For this reason all market gardeners and many truckers have packing sheds or houses.
The building used for packing may be temporary or permanent. It is often convenient to have a cheaply constructed shed in or near the field, although there are many arguments in favor of a permanent house which may constitute the center of activities and be the headquarters during the market season. Various crops may be brought from different fields to the packing house, so that the foreman may have opportunity to inspect every package before it is loaded for market. Every facility and convenience should be provided for the speedy handling of each crop.
The packing house should be centrally located, near the other farm buildings if possible, and should be substantial, convenient, comfortable, well lighted and properly ventilated. Comparatively few packing houses meet these conditions; they are usually dark, dingy rooms lacking many facilities and conveniences of arrangement.
The main floor of the packing house should be made of concrete, sloping gently to drains. Water may then be used freely in washing vegetables or wagons. If the house is to be used in cold weather, the doors should fit snugly and provision be made for heating.
The house should be of ample capacity, with space provided for shifting the wagons if necessary. Crowded conditions when unloading, grading, packing and loading necessarily result in a loss of time. Room must also be provided for the storage of packages.
One of the most satisfactory houses in New Jersey is arranged in the following manner: Large receiving doors which open on the packing floor are located at one end of the house 4 feet above the roadway. The packing floor is 5« feet above the level of the loading drive, which runs through the center of the house. Packages are stored in the other end of the house and also in the loft over the packing floor.
The packing floor must be provided with tables of convenient height. These are used when grading, bunching, tying and packing. Facilities for washing should be given special attention. Ordinary washtubs are often used, but they are not fully satisfactory. A large round or rectangular tank made of wood and perhaps metal lined, is used by many market gardeners. An abundance of clean water is necessary for thorough washing and the hose can often be used to advantage. The packing house of a modern establishment is not complete without a small office room, or at least a desk, and telephone connections with the markets if vegetables are to be sold locally.
After the vegetables are received at the packing house several operations are necessary before they can be ready for packing. Many different classes of vegetables, as beets, carrots and other root crops, are washed to remove any soil that adheres. Water is used mainly for the sake of cleanliness, but it has other values which deserve consideration. It gives many vegetables a fresh, bright appearance and prevents them from becoming wilted and withered before reaching the market. Plumpness is also maintained, as is the case when the green pods of peas and beans are immersed in water for a few moments before packing for local markets. Thorough washing is generally regarded as necessary for celery, lettuce, asparagus and all of the root crops, and considered an advantage under certain conditions for many other crops. Whatever the vegetable, it must be clean to make a favorable impression on the buyer, although it is not always advisable to use water freely. Tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, musk-melons, squashes, peppers and eggplants can usually be wiped with a damp cloth to secure the required cleanliness.
Vegetables which are bunched may be washed before tying, but the most common practice is to wash after tying, because the work can then be done more rapidly. The bunches are thrown into a tank of water and washed; a brush is used if necessary. When the vegetables are not too much soiled, the use of the hose may be sufficient. Bunches of vegetables, like asparagus, celery and rhubarb, are often placed on end in washing tanks and water applied with considerable force from the hose, but scrubbing is also necessary sometimes.
Certain vegetables require trimming, stemming or shelling before packing.
Many factors must be considered when selecting packages: (1) The most advantageous size must be determined. This is an age of small packages, which are gaining in popularity among both vegetable growers and vegetable buyers. As a rule, produce sustains less injury in transportation when in small packages, and the vegetables are always more attractive and more convenient to handle. This last fact is especially important from the consumers' standpoint. Any child can carry home with ease and delight the packed 2 or 4-quart basket represented in Figure 45, b. Although bushel baskets, (Figure 46, b and c) are used in some sections, they are too large for most purposes.
(2) The appearance of the package counts for much in making satisfactory sales. Is it neat, rather than clumsy? Is it bright in color instead of dull and dingy? Does it add to the attractiveness of the vegetables, making the display more pleasing?