Growing things a thriving business
by Juanita Hughes, columnist
February 26, 2014 04:00 AM | 743 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Juanita Hughes
Juanita Hughes
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If you grew up in the South, you probably know something about gardening. Even if you lived in an apartment and every square inch of the earth beneath your feet all day was paved, most likely you visited your parents or grandparents or cousins on a farm or in a suburb where most homes had a garden spot.

Some of us, perhaps you, have green thumbs, a term meaning that you have a special horticultural talent. And some of us paid little attention as the adults in the family thumbed through the Farmer’s Almanac for zodiac signs and new moons, and they watched as Mother Nature dropped hints about the weather.

They counted foggy mornings in September, and fuzzy worms and hickor’ nuts and pyracantha berries, and they watched the comings and goings of squirrels and birds. I admit I took it all for granted.

There was always plenty of food on the table and most of it came from the garden. Trips to the grocery store were few and far between. By the time the garden was harvested of early summer vegetables, the fall foods and fruits began to produce, and the cycle was completed as canning, freezing, drying, and preserving took place.

I realized, once I was married, the enormous blessing this had been. But I also realized the work involved. Although my husband and I did not attempt to be gardeners, we were fortunate to have kinfolk and neighbors who did, and who were generous in sharing with us.

One of the MOTH’s sisters, Evelyn, was married to Lon Quinn. Their home was, and is, on the banks of Fightingtown Creek near its confluence with the Ocoee/Toccoa River that flows through the center of twin cities McCaysville and Copperhill, Tenn. Lon, who died in 2006, was a born gardener/truck farmer and the perfect example of a workaholic.

Although he was employed at the Tennessee Copper Co., he somehow managed (with help from Evelyn and their three children) to raise a huge crop of everything from corn and tomatoes to watermelons on that rich creek bottomland.

I still have a not-so-pleasant memory of a visit there one year when the corn was in full production. There was more fresh corn than any one family could handle, given that each minute that passed after the corn was taken from the stalk was a minute away from that sweet freshness. And so we took home 100 ears of corn that day, and worked feverishly until midnight shucking, silking, blanching and storing those golden morsels.

I think it was not until that year that I understood, finally, a “ros-near” was a roasting ear. We never, then or now, roasted an ear of corn, but just the sound of that word caused our taste buds to respond.

It wasn’t many years afterwards that Evelyn decided to sell some of their bounty rather than try to freeze or can it all and/or give it away. She set up a little produce stand in the front yard and, as they say, the rest is history. Lon put up the first little building in 1973. The business expanded to include flowers and shrubs which they purchased until they made the decision to grow their own plants.

The first greenhouse was constructed in 1975. They had a lot to learn, but learn it they did. Since not a one of them saw fit to be lazy in Lon’s presence (!), their industriousness paid off. Today those acres are covered with greenhouses. A new generation is growing up to pick up the reins. Modern technology is not leaving them behind. Their newest innovative move is to hydroponics.

We recently toured the operation, and what a tour it was. I recalled the first time I heard the word hydroponics. The MOTH and I visited EPCOT Center at Disney World the year it opened, 1982. One of the pavilions there is called The Land. We took a boat ride through the “gardens”, and saw vegetables and grains and all manner of plants, growing and thriving with no soil. There was water, water, everywhere, in pipes and fixtures, so clean and fresh it was unbelievable. Not your granddad’s Oldsmobile, to say the least.

And just think, Disney World has moved to Fightingtown Creek. From Evelyn’s Produce Stand to Quinn’s Greenhouse and its counterpart, hydroponic Gabe’s Greens, it’s something to see. The other greenhouses are filling up nicely with seasonal flowers and plants, rooted in real dirt. It’s the best of both worlds.

Take the tour at quinnsgreenhouse.com. And watch for the ladybugs, the only insecticide.

Juanita Hughes is retired head of the Woodstock Library.
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