Farmers’ Market Produce
Jean and Garreld Fecht
308 E. Fifth St.
Veggies call my name
As I strolled by Jean and Garreld Fecht’s booth at our local farmers’ market, I heard the kale, bok choy and collard greens calling out, asking me to stop and admire their ravishing green leaves, promising a plate rich in vitamins and hinting at a longer life if they were awarded a spot on my dinner plate.
So I stopped to chat with the Fechts. We shared our common interest in fresh locally grown vegetables, especially vegetables grown without use of pesticides and various other ‘cides commonly used by growers today.
“We have always subscribed to farming organically,” Garreld said. “I studied chemical use in agriculture and the potential effects on the human body, and I listed 12 to 15 insecticides and fungicides, pesticides, even fertilizers that traditional growers were using. Jeannie and I decided to grow our vegetables the organic way. We aren’t certified as organic growers but the only products we use are certified for use in organic gardens.”
They raise hundreds of pounds of produce on four acres of land including their front, side and back yard in Axtell and a plot north of Axtell.
“The drawback of farming north of our home property is the drive,” Garreld said. “Sometimes we make three trips daily.”
Sharing their bounty with others
“I can’t remember when we didn’t garden,” Garreld said. They grow and sell green beans, summer squash, zucchini, acorn and butternut squash, cucumbers, collard, bok choy, kale, cabbage, beets, romaine lettuce, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, and decorative gourds and corn, as well as other vegetables too numerous to mention.
In addition to garden products, Jean plants pots of painted daisies, zinnias and other summer flowers that attract buyers through spring, summer and fall seasons. The flowers add color and natural charm to their booth at the farmers’ markets. Customers also buy Jean’s homemade jellies and jams, pickled beets, and sturdy, colorful hot pads which she crochets during winter months.
Their first point of sale occurs through a street-side stand at their home in Axtell.
“We open seven days a week at our self help booth in our front yard in Axtell,” Garreld said. “Our customers stop any time, night or day, to take a vegetable of their choice out of a cooler that I keep cold by changing out jugs of frozen ice. We operate under the honor system. Sometimes we may lose a dollar or two, but often our customers throw in more money, and it all comes out fine for us.”
The Fechts sell produce twice a week at a farmers’ market in Kearney, Thursday evenings at the Holdrege farmers’ market, and occasionally they take orders by phone.
“We recently sold 125 pounds of cabbage to a fellow in Phillipsburg, Kan., who makes sauerkraut,” Jean said. “We feel part of a community at the farmers’ market. Each year sales increase.”
Those long summer days
“Jean and I are in the field shortly after 6:30 a.m. when it is cool, and we often work until 10 p.m.,” Garreld said. They plant three times per year, and they pick every other day.
“Romaine lettuce is the number one money maker for us although the season is short,” Jean said. “Summer yellow squash is popular although summer squash has a short shelf life.”
The Fechts’ former garage is rehabbed into a spacious area that serves as a cleaning and packaging room for their vegetables. The vegetables are washed, cooled and then chilled in three large refrigerators.
Tiny but mighty
Garreld introduced me to his farm workers when we visited the garden acres north of Axtell. Fully expecting to meet the granddaughters whom the Fechts speak often of and with delight, I stepped out of the car, looked around, and didn’t see anyone. Standing between the bean rows, I felt movement below my feet. I startled and looked down. Seeing a small creature jump, I jumped. I looked more closely, thinking a mouse scurried under the bean leaves, but instead, a small toad sat looking up at me. An army of toads, each the size of a marshmallow and the exact color of the dirt we stood on were hopping between the bean plants. Garreld smiled.
“Toads are my secret farm workers,” he said. “They and birds help me farm. Toads are the first line of defense against insect infestations. If you want toads in your garden, find a clay pot, bust out a hole, turn it upside down and a toad will move in.”
Garreld shared another secret for growing vegetables without using pesticides and poisons. “Plant more crop,” he said. “We know that the bunnies eat young beans and gophers like beets. We plant plenty so we have enough for all.”
Garreld and Jean looked out over their lush, deep green and thriving garden with satisfaction. “See that gnarled old cottonwood tree,” Garreld said. “Birds nest in the tree, and sometimes I think they are singing for me while I am working in our garden. It’s pleasant here and quiet.”
Jean’s Recipe for Collard GreensCollards are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Since Jean suggested the following recipe for collards, I’m buying a pack every week and enjoying the nature of a collard and the flavor.
Cut out and remove the stem and major veins in the collard leaves. Cut the leaves into ¼ inch strips. Drop into salted boiling water to cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes, checking often to add more liquid if necessary. Strain, sprinkle with Balsamic vinegar and serve. Add a slice of hard-boiled egg for added protein, flavor and color.
Recipe by Jean Fecht
by Betty Sayers
Brawny vines punch green patterns on turquoise sky
Troupes of robust leaves tumble in the sunlight
Free from the inside and moving out, outrageous squash
Vertical sunflowers shimmy-up the sun’s rays
The heads drip gold, grow complete and nod
Uncluttered, uncontrived and true
Parsley cuts a clean design
A globe of frothy chlorophyll tops slim, crisp rods
An immaculate print
Bok choy declares its nature in voluptuous, supple leaves
Translucent stalks grow rich from the dark earth
Without apology, bok choy gets what’s good for it
The soul’s calling is clear in all that grows here
“Myself,” I say.
“Myself,” I shout!