14 July 2010

Love Ripens at the Market

Awww, ain't love sweet?

Surrounded by sweet, ripe fruit, it’s no wonder that Shane Baker and Haley Frost fell in love. Was it the intoxicating aroma of an August melon that spurred love on? Or was it simply that two people, meant for each other, found themselves side-by-side swapping bills for fruit?

Kahlil Gibran said, “Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.” And plenty of fruit there is. Shane Baker is owner, along with his father Martin, of Gala Springs, who brings us sweet treats like cherries and apricots and peaches. Located in “the middle of nowhere” as Haley said, in Boardman, Oregon, Gala Springs is known for cantaloupe so sweet, you’d swear you were eating candy. Haley, no stranger to farm life, is the daughter of Scott Frost of Nature’s Fountain Farm—a regular at the market.

Theirs is an unlikely match in some ways. Eleven years Haley’s senior, Shane had three rules—no more kids, no serious relationships and no marriage. He broke one of those rules, and a second will be broken when they tie the knot next summer. Shane is the father of two and a widower, and has been friends with Scott Frost for 10 years. Haley, a sharp and composed 23-year old, started helping her father at his market booth. Haley then found herself lending Shane a hand when he needed extra help. Even though Shane confessed that he knew Haley was “it” almost as soon as they’d met, he took a couple months to make his feelings known. Farmers do possess the patience to wait for something to grow, after all.

Though their imminent engagement was no secret, the exact time and place was a mystery. (Shane had already asked permission from Haley’s parents, and the couple picked out a ring together.) But on June 23 at the Wednesday Shemanski Market in the park blocks, Shane led Haley to a bush of yellow roses near the museum (Haley’s favorite flower color). He got down on one knee and, despite Haley’s pleas for Shane to get up, he asked her to marry him.  It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

With names like Baker and Frost, it’s tempting to want this duo to open a cake business. But they’ve got bigger plans for the farm. Haley is finishing a degree in environmental studies at PSU and doesn’t seem daunted by living in the middle of nowhere. Instead, she’s perfecting jam recipes, especially apricot, and hopes to market them. She also wants to get goats and chickens and try her hand at cheese making. Shane has been concocting plans for energy-saving features, and ideas for a new house are already germinating. The two are gearing up for living off the farm year round. To hear them banter about solar-powered greenhouses and growing lettuce in winter, there’s no doubt these two will build a great life together.

The wedding? Next July, when they can take full advantage of the fruits—and vegetables—of their labor. She’ll be clutching a bouquet of homegrown sunflowers, of course.

—Jane Pellicciotto