Gardening For Food, Fun And Profit – An Honored American Tradition

21st century vegetable stand

I was reading a Midwest USA blog. The author was complaining that there were too many Farmers Markets and Road Side Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Stands! I can only hope that I will see the day that that is a problem where I live.

Now it’s my turn to complain. This past summer I know of only one(1) so called Local Farmers Market. It was to be open every Saturday through our growing season. Not as good as it sounds. First I arrived early to have a choice of the best and freshest produce. I should have known better! First tip off should have been that guy collecting $1.00 entrance fee. I didn’t like paying a dollar to be allowed to spend my money buying produce from my local producers, but, I gave the guy a dollar and drove in and found me a parking place.

There were not many vendors, but, it is their first day open and surely more vendors will arrive soon. As I walked around looking for some fresh tomato’s, cucumbers, okra and maybe some yellow goose neck squash. I was horrified to find boxes full of oranges, grapes, apples and other fruits and vegetables setting in the back of pick-up trucks and vans, all were labeled product grown in Mexico and many other South American countries. I can’t remember ever seeing a banana tree in Southwest Oklahoma. 95 percent of the vendors were not local growers they were resellers of Imported produce.

An hour or so later disgusted and disappointed, I left with 1 small bag of radishes and cucumbers. What ever happened to Truth in Advertising?

Yes, you have it right, you should have know ‘the’ when I was a kid story was coming. So now I’m going to tell you what it was like a long, long time ago in a far, far away galaxy! 55 or 60 years ago, living on a dusty dirt road in west Texas.

1940-1950's vegetable stand

As a young boy locally grown fruit and vegetable stands were so common most people give them little notice. They proudly displayed that mornings harvest. Of course it was only what was in season and what the family had as surplus from the family garden or orchard.

A chance to relieve a visitor of his or her money worries was never missed. If you had only a few pennies or even 1 penny, you could get a nice big slice of watermelon or cantaloupe or even 1/2 of a big tomato or cucumber for a penny. Grin, if you wanted a little salt or black pepper to go along with your purchase that would cost you another penny.

As a special treat to ‘city’ folk, you could sometimes find fresh eggs, mama’s homemade butter or fresh baked bread wrapped in wax paper. Sometime they would have an old worn out hen or extra rooster with one leg tied to a stake for sale. Cheap fresh meat was not easy to come by in those days and it came home alive. You had to do the deed of cutting off it’s head, scalding picking and cleaning the bird.

During summer you could find fresh collected honey, home made jelly and jam and fresh home made pickles. In the fall of the year fresh cooked cane syrup was for sale. All bottled in mama’s pint canning jars. Of course, everyone knew that they were excepted to return the jar washed and clean when the honey or cane syrup was gone.

Most commonly these stands were operated by kids 8 to 12 years old, about my age. In general kids were paid a nickle a day, a dime if you had a really good sales day. Remember a dime would get you a cold soda pop and a candy bar or bag of roasted peanuts. The kids were excepted to operate the stand from sun rise till dark. The rest of the money went to buy store bought food, things like flour, coffee and sugar for the family.

They constructed their stands out of what ever materials they could find that was free. Sometime nothing more than a 1X12 board placed atop 2 home made wood saw horses or maybe on a few wood shipping crates donated by a local lumber yard, hardware store or grocery store.

Often if you really looked you could see that the roof was covered with waxed card board boxes carefully disassembled and tacked to roof boards so the produce was protected from rain and the scorching mid-day sun. Grin, kids wore hats to shade themselves from the scorching heat.

A visit to your local grocery store and you could get a hand full of small brown paper sacks for a nickel to bag tomatoes and peaches in for your customers convenience. Let us not forget, a nickel was a lot of money. The Great Depression and war time food rationing was at an end but no one had forgot what it was like to be jobless and hungry. So most kids ask their repeat customers to bring their own bag or box.

In the winter time. In those same stands, you might see a wild rabbit, squirrel or maybe a wild goose, duck or quail that had been field dressed {Gutted} hanging from a rafter for sale. You would also find a hand written note written with a well used pencil held down on a table with a rock telling you the price of the game your were looking at. Next to the rock would be an ‘honor’ box, most likely an old cigar box to put your money in and then you could take your fresh {sort of} meat home to feed your family a meal fit for any president.

Grinning, Those are the days I remember growing up and living on a dusty dirt country road in Texas.

Not from the USA Please leave me comment about your home town and country.

Why is common sense so uncommon?
Don’t be Shy. Leave me your Comment(s)

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5 responses to “Gardening For Food, Fun And Profit – An Honored American Tradition

  1. What a great post. I really enjoyed reading your childhood memories. Here is Sussex we are lucky and have many farm shops and local produce markets. And we do take our own bags!

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  2. Thanks for the article. Unfortunately, the situation is not much better here in Ireland. Not a lot of local farmer markets…

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  3. must give thanks for the mini documentary on early marketing techniques–what a humbling post this is.
    in europe, we still have original farmer’s markets, but the local and organic is sometimes being replaced by the exotic and not so pure. still you can find mache, dandelion and cress, all of which i forage for here in my new home< US Midwest rural area. neighbors bring me geese, rabbits or squirrels when they remember that i like wild game..venison is the meat of the poor, yet i consider it the freshest leanest fare of the kings..
    as a totally chemical free gardener, i grow my own, mostly from starts gathered in the woods and people's yard waste..i simply re-arrange nature in a civilized plot..and enjoy the effect on health and minds. and share a lot as well. besides the Amish fruit stands all around.

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    • Re: Nadine Sellers, In my early years the Great Depression and World War II food rationing was at an end. However, after 15 years of food shortages and food rationing, when a man picked up his rifle or shotgun, kicked the dog off the porch, be assured he was going afield for table meat. In those days no one had ever heard the term ‘sports hunting’. Large game like deer was hard to find and in many places nonexistent! In many cases birds like geese, ducks, dove. quail and small game like rabbit were often the only meat to be found on a families table.

      There was no such thing as a ‘hobby’ garden or raising poultry, rabbits or pigs as a hobby. It was truly a matter of survival.

      Thanks for finding time to visit my tiny little blog ~~Pobept

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  4. I count myself lucky. My little corner of Connecticut still has a few farm markets. No game hanging from the rafters in the winter, but the fresh produce is available in the summer. Heck, with all I’m growing out there this summer, I might open up a table in front of the house!

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