Retirees enjoying raising sunflowers
"How does your garden grow?"
Harold Vines and Jimmy White, both of Manila, can answer by saying a lot of work, a lot of water and a lot of care. The two men have joined their expertise in raising fresh vegetables, added a crop of sun flowers and created VW Produce. They recently built a produce shed on Manila Highway 18 Bypass, next to Circle Inn to offer their produce to the public.
White has retired twice, once from the military and once from a manufacturing business he owned, and Vines retired from the railroad and still works part-time at Adams' Estates. They both agree they went into the truck patch business because they love to grow fresh vegetables.
They have 3-1/2 acres on Wildy Road, 20 acres in the Black Water area and a large garden spot on Lake Street.
They are growing okra, squash, cucumbers, hot peppers, pumpkins, potatoes, onions, eggplants, ornamental Indian corn, sweet corn, purple hull peas, and tomatoes. They sequentially planned the planting so the vegetables will be ready to pick over a longer period of time giving their customers fresh vegetables throughout the growing season.
In addition to the vegetables, they added a large area of sunflowers. The sunflower crop is new to both of them but they have enjoyed watching the crop grow. The sunflowers will soon be ready for harvesting. They will harvest the sunflower seeds with a combine.
"In Mississippi County we can raise and produce everything we need on our tables," White said. "In 2004 the U.S. imported 53 percent of our food. We imported more than we produced."
White said he can remember during his growing up years fresh vegetables, including asparagus, radishes, potatoes, corn and onions, were grown in this area for marketing.
"There was a large radish shed in Manila," White said. "When we were kids we would sneak out with the rubber bands, used to tie the radishes for market, and have rubber band wars.
"There was a huge field of asparagus off Highway 18 near the Blankenship Farm just outside of Manila."
Both men knew their new venture would take a lot of hours and right now they are putting in 12 to 14 hours a day. Neither one minds the time because they love watching the vegetables grow.
"We have a little dirt in our blood," White said.
They have had to use a lot of water this year. They have water wells at all three garden locations. They use outside help during the planting and harvesting but they both enjoy working in the produce themselves.
"Since the temperature has risen, our wives do caution us regularly about getting too hot," White said. "We do try to be careful."
White said almost everything on his dinner table the night before was homegrown.
"There is nothing better than homegrown vegetables. You can't get any fresher than from the field to the table," White said.
How things go this year will determine plans for next year.
"We may expand or detract next year, depending on the market," White said.
The produce shed is open daily and will offer a large variety of homegrown, fresh vegetables.