Danny Mason doesn’t do much farming anymore. Instead, he grows and sells fresh produce to area schools and at local farmers markets.
“I decided I would do this,” Mason said during Saturday morning’s Garden City Farmers Market. “I thought I would take life easy but this is actually harder work than farming.”
Mason, who lives in Seward County, has been growing and selling his own produce for the past eight years. He was selling large, ripe tomatoes at the farmers market in the parking lot of Westlake Hardware, 1210 Fleming St.
“I’ve come up here the last three or four years. The first three or four years, I went to Amarillo and filled this car plumb full of tomatoes, clear to the top, and in two hours it was all gone,” Mason said.
Mason has two 60 by 130-foot greenhouses, which allow him to grow fresh tomatoes and other types of produce practically year-round.
He said the greenhouses allow him to better control the temperature. Tomatoes don’t grow well in temperatures above 85 degrees, he said.
“In the spring, you plant them and they do real good. Then when it starts getting hot, they just kind of set there and don’t do much. But then fall moves back in, they start producing again,” Mason said.
Tammy Davis of Garden City loaded a small plastic bag with Mason’s tomatoes Saturday.
“We just like the freshness,” Davis said.
Several area schools also benefit from Mason’s bounty – in Moscow, Kismet, Plains, Southwestern Heights — that he sells tomatoes of all sizes too.
“All the grade school kids like the little tomatoes,” Mason said.
Mason approached the schools a few years ago about buying his produce. He said the state is currently trying to push schools and other public institutions to serve locally grown produce. In 2014, the state established the local food and farm task force with a goal of making fresh and affordable locally grown foods more accessible.
On Thursday, the Kansas Rural Center held the “Feeding Kansas Dinner & Dialogue” forum at the K-State Research and Extension Center. KRC’s Executive Director Mary Fund said during the forum that only about 3 percent of the actual fruits and vegetables Kansans eat are actually produced in Kansas, despite the fact that Kansas is one of the largest agricultural produces in the world.
That statistic didn’t really surprise Carla Naeve, who was selling a variety of homegrown produce at the farmers market Saturday.
“Farmers like the bigger crops,” Naeve, who lives east of Garden City said. “And I don’t think people look for homegrown stuff.”
Her family grows and eats most of the produce it raises.
“We do it because we have a large family, so we can it and eat what we want, we sell what we want and then if we have leftovers, we give it to the rabbits or chickens or something,” said Naeve.
The chickens, she said, not only provide the family with fresh eggs, which she was also peddling Saturday, but also make great lawnmowers.
“We don’t have a blade of grass in our backyard right now because we have chickens,” Naeve said, and then laughed.
Naeve said the family uses a greenhouse to get the tomatoes, zucchini, beets and onions established, and then they transplant them into the ground.
Not only was she selling some of the produce Saturday, but also some of the actual plants, including herbs like basil and oregano, as well as tomato plants, which she said only require water every other day or so.
Brandy Rodney of Garden City picked out a few mangoes from a Hispanic man who was selling a number of different fruits Saturday.
“The mangoes I got last year. I was hoping they were just as good this year,” Rodney said.
She thinks locally grown produce is better than produce that is shipped in from other states.
“The grocery store is most likely going to be gas-ripened, whereas this is sun-ripened and sun-ripened always tastes better,” Rodney said.
Angie is a reporter at the Garden City Telegram. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.