(July 31) Season after season, whether the dark clouds poured down their lifeblood or the hot Texas sun stole it from them, one thing about those fields remained constant: that truck, parked neatly alongside them, on a country road.
For the last couple of seasons, it happened to be a newer, white extended cab. But no matter the style, for the past 30-plus years his truck was there. And Forrest Palmer was in the fields.
See, he never believed in “windshield farming” — driving around the perimeter of a farm and peaking through a car window to gauge its pulse. No, even at age 78, you could still see him in those fields.
He had to walk them because deep down, he always was a farmer — and this was his land.
TEXAS PRODUCE ASSOCIATION HALL OF FAMER
Palmer, veteran onion man and Texas Produce Association hall of famer, died July 18. His son, Gary, worked with him for 30 years.
As vice president and co-owner of Pharr, Texas-based J.F. Palmer & Sons Produce Inc., Gary Palmer continues crossing those fields today. But he knows it isn’t the same.
“Prior to him passing, I always said that I’m putting the puzzle together,” Gary Palmer said of life. “Now I am still putting it together, but I’m missing the boxtop.”
A lifelong resident of Pharr, Palmer worked in the produce industry for his entire adult life, serving and holding offices in the Texas Produce Association for 44 years. He was inducted into the association’s hall of fame March 4, 2002.
As a young man, Forrest Palmer took a job with Valley Fruit & Vegetable Co., Pharr. After working there shortly, he began an 18-year tenure at Jancik & Hartness Produce Co., Pharr, which later became John Jancik Produce Co.
STARTED FIRM IN 1973
In 1973, the senior Palmer started J.F. Palmer, which still today handles only onions. Even though he was officially retired, he still worked every day until recently.
In addition to his firm handshake and warm smile, his son, Mike Palmer, secretary-treasurer and co-owner of J.F. Palmer & Sons, said Forrest Palmer will be remembered for his matter-of-fact demeanor.
While he came from the old school, he wasn’t bound to it. Gary Palmer said his father was always looking for new ways improve the crop.
“He was always learning. He hated the status quo,” Gary Palmer said.
FARMER AT HEART
Mike Palmer said his father always had the farmer at heart because that’s what he was.
“He had compassion for the farmer, and would do whatever was best for him no matter what,” Mike Palmer said. “Many times we sacrificed our bottom line to help them.”