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Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved
Mention the words market garden and the younger generation will likely give you a blank stare. Yet market gardening was once a way of life for thousands of people in the Salt Lake valley and other parts of Utah. As farms got larger and fewer people made their living in agricultural, the market gardener seemed destined to fade into oblivion.
Fortunately, trends change and farmers markets, market gardeners and fresh, organic produce are new buzzwords. The return of these trends is a positive trend in the world of gardening.
There are many farmers markets in Utah that have a wide variety of fresh produce. Among the most poplar are the http://www.fruitstands.com/states/utah.htmhttp://chef2chef.net/farmer-markets/states/utah.htmhttp://ag.utah.gov/pressrel/2003FarmersMarkets.html
For more information on growing and selling organic produce in Utah, log onto the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food website at http://www.ag.state.ut.us/plantind/organic.html
Leo Kennedy is a market gardener that is helping promote this trend. Kennedy’s farm is a two-acre plot in Riverton. Since his retirement in 1996, he has farmed the area and developed his garden niche. His business is The Country Gardener.
Like most other market gardeners, it is not the size of the farm or the amount of produce he grows. The real secret of the success is finding what people want and how to supply it.
Kennedy originally tried to grow as much as possible on his small spread but now looks at what works in his situation. He fallows or lets part of his land rest each year. This helps maximize production in following years because it lets him build up the soil without using chemical fertilizers. It also allows him to adjust his workload to his available time.
Kennedy explains the concept of a niche market as growing something that no one else is growing or growing a less common crop better than the completion. That gives consumers a choice and the ability find items that are not available in the supermarket trade. Home gardeners take note of his variety recommendations because they are some of the best.
Part of his niche is the scalloped or Patty Pan Squash. He grows four or five different kinds and sells them at several different stages. They are ready to eat the minute they have a fruit behind them. He even picks bags of the male blossoms and sell them to the people who like them for stuffing.
When possible, he grows cucumbers in cages to save space in his garden and make them easier to pick. Kennedy’s favorite varieties are ‘Sweet Success’ and ‘Marketmore’ for traditional slicers and ’Armenian’ and ‘Lemon’ cucumbers for specialty markets.
He added lettuce to his mix to have something to sell early in the season. He has seven different varieties that have good appeal in the market. Among his favorites are ‘Red Sails’, ‘Green Sails’ and a new variety from Israel called ‘Jericho’ that is very resistant to bolting when the temperatures get too hot.
Among his most popular crops are “vine ripened, home grown tomatoes” direct from his farm. ‘Stupice’ is the earliest variety and he grows ‘Sun Sugar’, an improved type of ‘Sun Gold’ that resists cracking and has an excellent flavor.
When asked about why he selected these cherry type tomatoes, he explains they are too much work for most people and they do not devote the time and energy to grow them as a market garden crop.
His signature is freshness. All the produce is at the market and sold within hours of picking. He concentrates on two markets so he builds his repeat customer base. Kennedy picks the produce for the Park City Market on Wednesday afternoon and sells it that evening. He picks Friday afternoon and evening for the Farmers Market in Pioneer Park on Saturday morning.
His garden is not immune to the worst problem of the summer, the heat. Last year at this time his tomatoes produced 200 cups of ‘Sundrop’ tomatoes. This season they are only producing 20 cups. In spite of the heat, the garden continues and Kennedy and other market gardeners continue to provide some of the freshest and best produce available anywhere.