Accidental Gardening

Sometimes a location will work out for you in ways you never imagined. My garden happened to be right next to a well-travelled road, and that seemingly insignificant detail changed our lives forever.

Farm women everywhere tend to get carried away when they plant their gardens. By mid-July we’re half buried in produce. You can’t give the stuff away. My friend Roger Swain, host of The Victory Garden on PBS, jokes that, come harvest time in his Massachusetts hometown, you always leave your car doors locked and the windows rolled up. Otherwise, when you come back, you’ll find the car filled with zucchini.

One sunny morning, I had just come back from picking the year’s very first pail of cucumbers. I was about to go out and pick more, because there were so many of them. It had been a glorious spring and early summer.

Just then, a car pulled into the yard and two men got out. They had been driving by and spotted my huge, thriving garden. They didn’t speak much English, but they managed to ask if I would sell them some fresh cucumbers.

So I brought out my pail, and they looked at the cucumbers I had just picked. They were the firmest, most beautiful cucumbers you ever saw in your life. The fellows tried their best to look nonchalant, in order to get a good price. I could tell by the gleam in their eyes, however, that I could charge them just about anything I wanted.

Still, when they asked me “How much?”, I had no idea what to answer. I had never sold vegetables before. We didn’t even have a scale. I looked at this big five-gallon pail of cucumbers and tried to decide how much it weighed. I said, “I really don’t know how many pounds this might be.” One of the men frowned and said, “Ooooh, I’d say maybe six or seven pounds.” Of course, I knew they were kidding me. There had to be a good 25 or 30 pounds in there.

So I said to them, “I’ll tell you what: I’ll let you have the whole pail for two dollars.” And that was when I learned my first lesson in marketing. I should have said three, because now they started to bargain with me. I ended up selling those cucumbers for a dollar!

Of course, about a week later, those fellows were back for more. As soon as they got out of their car, I told them, “This time it’s going to cost you more than a dollar.”

But those two fellows started it all. Ted and I figured that if they were so interested in our vegetables, maybe other people would be too. We put a tiny ad in the Edmonton Journal. It cost us $2.50 for one full week. All the ad said was “Hole’s Farm—Vegetables for Sale,” and our phone number. Well, our phone just rang off the hook.

Before long, we were dealing with twenty or so customers every day. At that time, Edmonton had a lot of recent Italian immigrants, and they were just dying for home-grown garden produce. People would phone us up, and we would tell them what we had that day.

We were lucky that it had been such a good growing year. Our production was about twice what it would be in an ordinary summer. Even so, we couldn’t come close to keeping up with the demand.

One evening, after the last car had pulled out of the yard, I counted up the day’s receipts: 36 dollars! The total was staggering. I just couldn’t believe it. “Ted,” I said delightedly, “we’ve struck gold!”

The die was cast. After years of trial and error, of trying to find the perfect use for our land, we finally had our answer.

When you stop and think about it, if I hadn’t planted my garden next to the road, where those two fellows could see it as they drove by, we might never have gone into the gardening business. I guess if you’re in the right location at the right time, wonderful accidents have a way of happening!

-Lois Hole I'll Never Marry A Farmer