In June 25 IssueBy Kim GrahamTimes Journal Reporter
Gardening is in his blood and his veins course with dark, rich, river soil. Creelsboro native Rasty Andrew has been commercial farming the Cumberland River bottom land he calls home for the last 20 years.
"I started raising vegetables for sale when the market started about 20 years ago," said Andrew. "I've been an active member for 7 years now."
A farmer all his life, Andrew has perfected his vegetable growing in the last 7 years since retiring from the Kentucky Cabinet for Families and Children.
He and his wife Diane, own and operate a family farm and are the longest standing members of the Russell County Farmers Market. Diane Andrew is certified in home processing to make jams, jellies and breads from produce grown on their farm.
Wearing his prized Kentucky Proud cap, Rasty Andrew walks through his garden pointing out the variety of each vegetable growing as if introducing old friends.
They grow so many vegetables in their 4 acres of garden, it would take a small book to list them all. From tomatoes, corn, beans, squash and potatoes to melons and cantaloupe, it is safe to say he has several varieties of each and more.
"If it grows and you can eat it, I've got it," said Andrew. "I've got it planned to the day but it took me years to learn."
Over the years, Andrew has worked with the local extension office to improve farming practices by adding drip irrigation and implementing the use of black plastic to achieve more vegetable yield in less space.
He said less space saves money and time, drip irrigation saves water and distributes fertilizer evenly, and using plastic increases plant yield and helps keep weeds down in the garden.
"I do most of my weeding with those two hoes," said Andrew pointing toward the farming implements. "You talk about work. I work from daylight until about 10 o'clock in the morning. Then I take a break and start work again in the afternoon until dark."
Andrew said he can plan how much to grow and estimate earnings from the sale of the produce by knowing from experience how much each plant will yield.
He also learned about succession farming, an intensive gardening method to establish a continuous harvest over an extended period Andrew said.
Bodacious corn growing in Andrew's garden will mature at different times throughout the growing season.
"I'll have corn all summer," said Andrew. "I plant corn and then plant it again in about 10 days to 2 weeks so the plants will tassel at different times."
Happy to share his knowledge, Andrew mentors other farmers sharing his knowledge of farming practices and encouraging them to sell produce locally at the farmers market.
"It's about all I know," said Andrew. "It's what I was taught by my mom and dad."
Neighbors Bill and Bonnie Wielker helped Andrew last year with his garden. This year, they are growing their own vegetable garden and are first time members of the farmers market.
"Rasty's taught me a lot," said Wielker. "We grow Brown Stick Beans, Greasy Beans, Bodacious and Silver Queen Corn, watermelons cantaloupe and more."
The Wielker garden is already supplying a local restaurant as well as the Wielker's table.
"I've sold some lettuce, cucumbers and zucchini to Gutherie's," said Wielker. "And everything I ate for lunch today was from our garden."
Bonnie Wielker, like Diane Andrew, is certified in home processing allowing her to make breads, pastries, jams, and jellies for sale at the market and at their farm. She said the main ingredient for her products must be grown on their farm.
This year, the Russell County Farmers Market (RCFM) boasts 25 farmers as members compared to only 6 last year.
"Our growth is attributed to the agriculture extension service recruiting by contacting local farmers and through encouraging folks who attending gardening classes to join," said RCFM president Anna Robins. "Farmers market members have also been instrumental to member growth by recruiting friends and family,"
Rasty Andrew has recruited 4 additional members this year including Wielker and another neighbor, Dr. Richard Perkins.
Dr. Perkins, in his first year as a farmers market member, is growing potatoes, corn and a few watermelons in fertile river bottom fields near Creelsboro.
Andrew said sometimes to unwind after his shift at Russell County Hospital, Dr. Perkins plows and plants his 2,200 foot rows in the evenings by the moonlight.
"Now that's dedication," said Andrew. "And pretty straight rows, too."
Local farmers will offer tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, beans, fresh local beef (various cuts and ground) and homemade jams, salsa and crafts and many other products at the farmers market this week.
Russell County Farmers Market Grand Opening is Friday, June 26, 2009 in their new location at US 127 and Lakeway Drive in Russell Springs.
"We will be selling ground chuck hamburger boxed lunches as a fundraiser," said Robins. "The fundraiser is to defray marketing expenses and to raise money for our tent."
She said boxed lunches, which will cost $5, will include slaw, baked beans and a soda. They will begin serving lunches at 11 a.m. and will deliver free to orders of 10 lunches or more.
To order lunches or for additional information regarding the Russell County Farmers Market, call Anna Robins at 270-507-6292.
Russell County Farmers Market is open Tuesdays 7:00 a.m. - 1 p.m., Fridays 7:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. and Saturdays 7:00 a.m. - 1 p.m. June through September.