One spring morning, years ago, I got a phone call from a friend who taught junior high school in nearby Bon Accord. “Lois,” she said, “we’re having a career day. Could you come and talk to our grade sevens, eights, and nines?”
“What career are you asking me to talk about, exactly?” I inquired. And she said, “Well, market gardening, of course.”
“Who else is coming?” I asked, trying to sound casual. She recited the guest list: a doctor, a nurse, a fireman, a police officer, a photographer, a university drama professor – the array of glamorous professions went on and on.
“Margaret,” I asked, “what teenager in her right mind would want a career in market gardening? With all those wonderful people, the kids will never come to hear me.”
“Oh yes they will, Lois,” she replied. “They have to.”
Well, before I knew it, there I was walking down the school hallway. I still hadn’t the slightest idea what I was going to tell these kids. Just then, two girls passed me, and I overheard one of them saying, “If I can just find a way to earn twenty more dollars, I’ll finally be able to buy that dress.” I snapped my fingers and thought, “Now I know what to say.”
As I walked into the room, a very nervous little grade seven girl was introducing me. She said, “ We’re so glad to have Mrs. Holey here today.”
I could tell by looking at the kids that they were already thinking ahead to the fireman. So I turned to them and said, “Hey kids, do you want to make some money this summer?” Every kid was suddenly paying close attention.
I told them, “Go home and ask your mother for half of her vegetable garden. In that half garden, you’re going to plant peas. And make sure you plant those peas nice and thick! And then you’re going to get up in the morning and pick those peas.”
You might notice I left a few details out between the planting and picking. But I had their attention and didn’t want to lose it.
I said, “You’ll pick a great, big bag of peas. Your mother will drive you to the nearest supermarket. When you get there, you’ll march up to the first staff person you see and tell them, ‘I’d like to see the produce manager, please.’ When he comes out, you’ll say, ‘I have this bag of peas I’d like to sell you.’
“He’ll reach over and grab a pod. The peas will be so shiny and squeaky; he’ll know you picked them that morning. He’ll want them so badly. And when he asks you, ‘How much do you want for your bag of peas?’, you will say, ‘TWENTY DOLLARS’.”
I thought the little girl was going to fall off her chair.
I told the kids, “You can sell fresh peas anywhere. Put them in big bags, put them in little bags, go to the City Market, go door to door. People will die for fresh peas.”
Well, the room absolutely erupted. The kids began talking all at once, excitedly throwing out suggestions. Just then the bell rang and I had to move on to the next class. I thanked the kids for their enthusiasm and began gathering my things.
A little girl in the front row raised her hand. “Mrs. Hole,” she begged, “don’t tell the other kids about the peas!”
-Lois Hole, I'll Never Marry A Farmer