It’s hard to miss Glenda.
She’s the tall Texan with a big, colorful tablecloth. She’s always smiling. She greets everyone who passes by, even if they don’t greet back. She says "yes sir" and “sure ma’am” with all the loyalties of her military-brat childhood. And she always works her farmstand solo.
Back on the farm, however, her 80-year old mother Marlene runs the show.
“She just tell me what to do and I do it,” says Glenda. “The woman is a hoot.”
They’re in the garden at dawn every morning and stay until it gets too hot to work, usually around 9. Break for the middle of the day, and then in the evenings they’re back at it again—weeding, tilling, picking, spraying (all organic, non-toxic; think mouthwash and Epsom salt and stale beer concoctions). In their row garden and their high tunnel, they grow strawberries, squash, cantelope, tomatoes, peppers, brussel sprouts, peas, collard greens, jalapenos, cayenne, sweet peppers, potatoes, carrots, leeks, and more. Their onions are so fragrant you can smell them three stalls away. They’re famed for their okra, but the turnips, green beans, and cucumber deserve accolades, too.
When the duo found themselves both widowed in 2014, Glenda retired from a successful sales career in Houston to keep company with her mother on a 50-acre farm that borders Middle Indian Creek. Marlene is the daughter of tobacco sharecroppers from Georgia, and gardening has always played an important role in her life. For years, she kept her family, friends, and neighbors supplied with produce. But after Glenda moved back in, she convinced her mother to help pursue one of her lifelong dreams.
“Dad was sick for a long time. He asked me to move up when he passed and do what I always wanted to do: sell at a farmers market. And I’m loving it,” says Glenda.
Though Marlene thrives in the garden, she leaves the selling up to Glenda. “She told me, ‘I’ll help you do anything in the garden, but I’m not gonna stand up there and let some old biddy badmouth my produce. I’m just not gonna do it!’”
“Somebody starts poking and squeezing my tomatoes and stuff and telling me how bad they are, I might just do that to ‘em,” Marlene says, making a fist.
That’s understandable. They work hard for the garden and, in turn, the garden works hard for them.
“You ought to hear Glenda in that garden, moaning and groaning!” Marlene says with a laugh.
“I refuse to suffer in silence. I’m just not going to do it," says Glenda. “It's so sad. Mom can work circles around me. And she’s almost 81!”
For the record, Marlene does not look 81. Blame her home-grown diet, her thrice-weekly bowling commitment, and her garden.
“I've got to make every minute count,” says Marlene. “You know, you’ve got a choice when your mate dies. You can sit down and you can grieve, or you can get up and do something. And I refuse to be a vegetable.”
After all, why be a vegetable when you can grow one?