My paternal grandfather was a market gardener for many years in the Netherlands up until the time he and his wife and eight children immigrated to Canada. He harvested abundantly from a garden about an acre and a half in size, with a small greenhouse for cultivating grapes and growing early seedlings. People used to remark that there was a special blessing upon that garden.
Then came the German occupation in 1940. My grandfather was not held back from his business, but the market for vegetables changed drastically. All top quality produce would be sent directly to Germany, while second quality vegetables remained in the Netherlands. Somehow my grandfather hatched a subtle plan to help his fellow citizens.
With the exception of cucumbers, my grandfather ensured that all his crates of vegetables would be labeled “second quality.” Cucumbers, he reasoned, were not highly nutritious, so sending cucumbers to Germany would bring little benefit to them.
The way he made sure his other lots of vegetables would be considered inferior was by filling each crate nearly to the brim with the best his garden produced and then placing an obviously misshapen head of cauliflower, an off-colour tomato, or a bunch of freakish carrots at the very top. Those grading the crates could quickly classify his goods as second quality, which destined them for families within Holland. And as the war dragged on, food for Dutch families became increasingly scarce.
But Opa bore a cost. His fellow gardeners poked fun at him, and his reputation for quality slipped. At the produce auction his crates also brought a lower price.
His example inspires me to remember that caring for your neighbour trumps prestige or profits, no matter what your vocation is.