Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. Deep red tomatoes, big as grapefruit, firm yet juicy when sliced, packed with flavor. Graceful glowing yellow squash, stacked in a fiesta of curved necks. Onions that tempt one to bit into them raw. Beets that have colored targets at the center, small; just-born new potatoes.
The Living Garden on the intersection of Second Street and Hwy. 119, looks like the small truck garden stands to found in America’s Heartland, next to a corn field in Nebraska, an orchard in Wisconsin, and the Amish communities in Iowa and Missouri. These produce stands are usually run by members of the family who own and farm the land.
Last weekend, Abby and Tamaya Chance of Darlington, Missouri, helped sell the vegetables to Nederland residents and visitors who passed by the table with a tarp over it. Their parents, Shane and Amanda Fechtler, have lived here for four years and when they moved into the perfect location for a fresh produce stand, they incorporated grandparents Thom and Sherry Fechtler to organize bringing vegetables fresh from midwest dirt on Tuesday to the stand by Thursday.
Just when our tomatoes and squash are beginning to show signs of being food, the Missouri veggies are at their peak, ready to travel 13 hours to Nederland in a car packed to the ceiling.
Thom and Sherry live on seven acres, four of which are dedicated to vegetables and the practice of permaculture: a form of sustainable gardening incorporating organic crops with the provision for all life systems to continue and multiply and for people to have access to the life systems and return surpluses back into the system.
They also have access to the gardens of their Amish neighbors, who know only sustainable growing practices.
Pointing to the succulent new potatoes, Thom says, “These were pulled out of the Owl Crest River bottom on Tuesday. The tomatoes were planted in March and they are ready to go.”
The Fechtler family is eager to teach people how to have their own market garden as an alternative to poverty. The girls will travel with their dad every week, bringing fresh vegetables to their market on Thursday and Friday. They have set up shop for a month now and say they are sold out every Friday.
Thom says, “Most people can’t afford farm fresh food. Small markets could change the world in one generation.”
One product that would be hard to find elsewhere is the homemade, hand-churned butter that is made by the girls. The cream comes from grass fed, organic cows that are milked Tuesday morning. Tamaya and Abby use an old fashioned wooden churn, add a little Himalayan pink salt, and sell the butter on Thursday for $5 a pound.
One of the customers bought six fresh organic eggs, a few vegetables and said he was going home to make an omelet.
The family plans to run the vegetable stand throughout the summer and then the girls will have to go back to the books and indoor lessons.