What ever happened to the prize farmers?

Published 10:47 am Monday, June 20, 2005

By By Michele Gerlach
I miss Novalee Graham and his peers.
During the first years that I earned my living working at The Atmore Advance, he appeared regularly on our pages.
Whatever the season, Mr. Graham was growing something worthy of note. He enjoyed a reputation for cultivating the biggest watermelons and pumpkins. Let someone else bring an extra-big zucchini to the newspaper to be photographed, and he'd be on the doorstep with something better the next week.
The vegetables didn't just appear at the newspaper office. My friend Gwen Dorriety always advised people not to leave their cars unlocked in the summer.
"If you do, somebody's sure to leave a bag or squash in it," she said. "And you can get too much of it."
It occurred to me last week that it's growing season and we haven't had any gardeners on our pages. It made me wonder if people have stopped gardening, or if they've stopped feeling welcome at the newspaper office.
Buck Farrior in the County Extension Office said folks have had a hard time growing tomatoes – and especially champion ones – recently because of a virus that attacks tomatoes and peanuts. Nonetheless, he thinks there are still gardeners among us.
"As evidenced by the number of people who come to me to talk about tomato plants, they're still out there," he said.
"From a commercial standpoint, we're going more for uniformity now than the larger size," he said. "But there are a lot of people who still like to grow huge tomatoes."
One year our friend Mr. Graham had champion tomatoes. We asked him the secret to his success and he shared it.
"When I go outside to water them, I always bang on some pots and pans," he said. "That way the plants think it's thundering and lightening and they're getting real rain."
There's been plenty of "real rain" around here recently. If it spawned any champion tomatoes or watermelons or zuchinni in your garden, we'd love to feature them on our pages.
Michele Gerlach may be reached at michele.gerlach
@brewtonstandard.com or 251.867.4876.

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