For most of America, especially in the South, Memorial Day and Labor Day serve as bookends for summer. Memorial Day weekend generally marks the end of the school year and time with family, friends, a grill, and a body of water, be it a lake or the beach. Labor Day weekend is like one last hurrah as summer comes to an end and school starts back. Whether families take one more trip to the beach or lake or just grill in the backyard with friends, it’s a time to bid farewell to lazy summer days, late-night swims, seersucker, and white shoes.
Some may find it difficult to remember which holiday is which. Memorial Day is observed the last Monday in the month of May as a day to honor the memory of those who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. On the other hand, Labor Day, the first Monday in September, was created to honor the manufacturing labor force and give workers a much-needed day off. It has become the unofficial end of summer, as well as a holiday of shopping sales and backyard barbecues.
Here at Paulk Vineyards, though, Labor Day is a time we labor. The three-day weekend marks the peak of our harvest season, which begins late July and runs through the end of September. Activity and population around the farm both ramp up until there’s quite a frenzy. With over 600 acres of muscadines to be picked, it takes a small army of up to 300 skilled workers, which increases our local population by about 1000%! The pickers work hard, long hours in the hot summer sun to quickly fill their boxes with ripe muscadines and load the boxes onto the field trucks. These trucks, which haul empty boxes to the field and full boxes back to the coolers, are a bit comical driving up and down the road, with their “custom” canopies.
Not only do we have hundreds of men and women all over the farm picking the muscadines by hand, we also have mechanical harvesters which we use to pick the muscadines from the fields of juice varieties as well as those fields that have been completely picked over for fresh fruit sales. These are interesting-looking machines going down the road for sure! The muscadines that are mechanically harvested are pressed and deseeded, frozen and stored to be used throughout the year for processing juices, jellies, supplements, and wine. A lot of work happens in a short amount of time to prepare for the following year.
Our quiet little country road is suddenly bustling with traffic from all those field trucks, mechanical harvesters, tractors, and the tractor-trailers that come in and out from the loading docks all day and well into the night. There’s not much rest for the weary around here during our harvest season, that’s for sure!
We haven’t yet mentioned the dozens of individual customers who drive in with their families to celebrate the season and pick their own muscadines. Labor Day weekend is the busiest weekend by far at our little store and pick-your-own. It’s become a tradition for many families to include a trip to our farm as part of their family’s last summer vacation. This year, we’ve consolidated into one convenient location for our customers to pick and purchase fresh muscadines as well as our supplements, juices, jellies, and wine. We even offer a free wine tasting!
Although there’s quite a lot of hard work going on this weekend and throughout out harvest season, it is truly a labor of love. We’re all grateful for the busy-ness, as it is our business, too! We hope that our work on Labor Day helps ensure that your family can relax and enjoy the flavor and health benefits of muscadines year-round. Don’t worry, we’ll find our own time to relax and recover after it’s all over with!