Harvesting crops in time for Thanksgiving

June 19th, 2015 9:14 am

First Posted: 11/18/2014

Overall, 2014 was a bountiful season at the LaCoe family farm in Ransom Township.

“A little dry at times, but overall it was okay,” said 66-year-old Clayton (Clay) LaCoe, Jr.

Seven days a week from April to November, work on their in-season vegetable farm is continuous. “April to May is plowing and getting the ground ready. May and June are planting. July through November is harvesting,” LaCoe said. “It keeps you going. The beginning and ending (of the season) are a little easier.”

After returning from the service in the mid to late 1940s, his father, Clayton LaCoe Sr., (nicknamed “Buckey” in school) began farming dairy and produce with his father-in-law, Horace H. Davies.

“It was my grandfather (Horace Davies), and father, (Clayton LaCoe Sr.) and his son, Horace (Hobby) Davies,” said Clay LaCoe. “In 1972, the cows were sold…My father and I kept the vegetables going.” Clay’s sons, Clayton LaCoe III and Michael helped on the farm until the mid-1980s.

In 2007, Clayton LaCoe died unexpectedly and the following year, in 2008, Clay decided it was time to retire from teaching after 38 years. “My sister had a grocery store and I always helped my father, but when he passed away, Cheryl (Kovalik) (his sister) had sold the store, so we just kept the operation going.”

Kovalik, 69, who retired in 2005 following 42 years in the grocery business, and came on board in 2007.

Did she miss the grocery business? “I didn’t have time to miss it,” she said.

Together, LaCoe and Kovalik, with some assistance during the summer months, farm approximately 16 of the 80-acre property and plant 22 varieties of crops. Their main crops are tomatoes, sweet corn, potatoes, peppers and cabbage and are mixed with an assortment of root crops of squash, carrots, beets, and parsnips.

LaCoe and Kovalik agree farming is in their blood.

“Keeping the farm active and keeping it tilled, that’s what my family always did and we don’t want it (the fields) to grow up, plus it gets in your blood and you don’t know any better,” said LaCoe.

“I enjoy just being out in the air and the beauty of the land - what God has created. I think about it every day when I’m working,” said Kovalik. “We’re so grateful for what we have and should appreciate our surroundings. I look at the sky and say it’s so blue today. It’s so beautiful.”

At the end of the season in late fall, after the final crops are picked and the Co-Op Farmers Market in Scranton, where they sell their goods closes, they, too, “close the door” and have a reprieve from the long work days until spring. But, in January, they start planning for the next season. “You start planning in January and ordering seeds and making sure everything is ready to go,” said LaCoe.

During the winter, LaCoe hunts and volunteers in the math department at Western Wayne Middle School and Kovalik said she cleans and travels with her husband, Ed, who also helps on the farm. “We relax, travel, socialize and do jobs around the house that we don’t have time to do during the summer.”

They are members of the Co-Op Farmers Market, 900 Barring Ave., where LaCoe and Kovalik say, “People come in and support the market very well.”

“We are very grateful to the local people, because it gives us a terrific outlet. We really appreciate northeastern Pennsylvania for supporting the local farmer,” said LaCoe.

Wondering which vegetables to cook for Thanksgiving dinner?

“Potatoes are excellent this year. Root crops like beets and rutabagas are always a big seller at Thanksgiving…squash, potatoes and cabbage - that’s what the people look for…

People are getting ready for the holiday. Wednesday, Friday and Monday before Thanksgiving will be very busy.”

Co-Op Farmers Market hours are from noon to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday through Thanksgiving Eve.