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Growing History

 

Hot Springs, S.D. farmers’ market will be opening soon. One person contacted me and asked if there had been a time when Hot Springs had areas of “fresh food production.” Here is a little historical perspective.

There were smallish (by Washington state standards) orchards around the county as well as “truck gardens.” The latter were very large gardens grown so the owners could harvest and truck produce throughout the area. My great-grandparents started and their gardens were second to none.

My grandparents later ran the orchard as well as the truck garden. My dad and his father delivered produce to Civilian Conservation Corps camps in the Black Hills and supplied Custer and Edgemont stores.



In the late 1950s to early 1960s, Jack Strain had a commercial tomato garden in the area about where the Mueller Center is today. In later years Marv Sunding grew acres of sweet corn in the same area. These fields also provided income for young folks who weren’t afraid of work.

Several years ago, a young couple from California moved to our community. They rented a farmhouse where a tiny parcel of land was available for gardening, with the plan to be organic farmers and to give all of the produce to local needs. The husband worked in town and the wife was highly pregnant. Once the baby came his needs gained prominence. Within a few short weeks the garden had all grown up to weeds. Simply put they found out that gardening takes a lot of work, whether organic or conventional, and their priorities were (rightly) elsewhere. They moved here thinking the utopia of raising for others was the ultimate and it would be easy. Just as it is for many who look at farming from the outside, when the facts hit them in the face, they realize there is much more to it than it appears.



In recent years a husband and wife bought a few acres 20 miles from their home and planted a small vineyard as well as garden crops. On another small piece of land just outside of their hometown they planted another vineyard and produce. They had to tend two gardens, water and weed, plus pick items for sale on certain days of the week and run their market. It was a big job. They constructed a small, adobe cashier’s hut as a center of commerce and a welcoming center. That was a recent farmer’s market.

Since then, various entrepreneurs have set up their stands on street corners in town a couple of days per week at an informal market. Locals soon got used to their offerings. It works well.

Twenty-five years ago, we raised sweet corn, picked it at 5 in the morning and our sons and I took it to a town 60 miles from the ranch, to sell on the street corner. I remember the boys getting so mad when someone would ask our price, then retort, “I can buy it for half that at the big box grocery store over there.”

Never mind that big box store’s corn was at least a week old, likely older, and ours was undeniably fresh, as are the offerings at local farmers’ markets.

 


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Peggy Sanders

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