In Winthrop, Maine, where I live, Tuesday and Saturday are the days for the small farmers’ market held in the center of town. Because my husband and I only have one car, and I usually don’t have use of it on Tuesday, Saturday is my “go to market day.” Last Saturday was a rainy one—tropical depression Dan was wending its way up the coast—and there was only one vendor—Farmer Kev or, to be more precise, Farmer Kev’s father, Tim Leavitt. Farmer Kev was not there for a very good reason—classes have begun at the University of Maine at Orono, where he is a first-year student. Farmer Kev is eighteen years old, and this is his second year at the farmers’ market.
I am acquainted with Tim Leavitt, and we chatted a bit before I bought some vegetables. Tim described how Farmer Kev, or Kevin as he is more commonly known, showed an early interest in gardening. When he was twelve or so, he converted an old sandbox into a small vegetable bed and grew some food for the family. But a true gardener is never satisfied with one small bed, and Kevin expanded into the family’s backyard. Soon, this also wasn’t enough, and on the outskirts of town he found some land that the owner was willing to let Farmer Kev use. Kevin also helped organize community gardens at Winthrop High School, where, until recently, he was a student. Next year, Kevin plans to build some cold frames so that he can start tomatoes earlier. This year, unfortunately, he lost his plants to blight, as so many Maine farmers and gardeners have done this rainy summer.
“How long far into the season will you be here?” I asked Tim.
“Until October,” he answered, smiling. “Kevin will be home over Labor Day weekend, but my wife and I will be helping while he’s at school.”
No small task for busy parents, but the family that gardens together, stays together?
Now, even though I have one of the worst yards in Winthrop for gardening, I have a very soft spot for farmers and gardeners. They grow our food. They keep us going. Without them, most of us would find it hard, if not impossible, to feed ourselves. Many adults have a tendency to criticize young people for not knowing enough about where food comes from, for thinking that it all begins at the grocery store. While this might be true for some young people, it is not true for all young people, and it is certainly not true for Farmer Kev. May the blight leave his tomatoes alone; may he always enjoy having dirt under his nails; and may he garden for many, many years to come. And kudos to his parents for helping out, even when it rains, for supporting him in his gardening venture.
Late August and early September are wonderful times to eat in Maine, and here is what I bought from Farmer Kev’s stand: two pounds of green beans, two heads of garlic, one zucchini, and four pounds of little red potatoes. For all of this, I paid $8, for food that is local and is grown organically.
That evening, along with chicken cutlets meuniere, my husband and I had some of those succulent green beans and those wonderful little red potatoes. We raised our glasses to Farmer Kev, to his green beans and potatoes, to all things local and delicious, and to the good life, which doesn’t always have to cost a lot.