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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Vernon's First Year Garden Produces the Produce

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Photos by Steven Looney Vernon Borntreger's produce has filled more than one plate this year. Although the produce season is almost over, pumpkins will soon be available.
"When I told the people in McKenzie (Tenn.), I was going to quit shoeing horses and start growing produce in Arkansas, they told me that growing produce is as hard on your back as shoeing horses. I told them that might be, but I didn't have to worry about getting kicked by the produce," laughed Vernon Borntreger.

Vernon, his wife Ida, and their five children are one of three Old Order Amish families who now call Fulton County home.

Vernon and Ida's home sits along the bottom land of the Southfork River and has produced a harvest of vegetables this year that seem to leave the farm almost as fast as it can be picked. A little advertisement and a lot of word of mouth, has kept the Borntregers busy keeping up with the demand.

"First year gardens are the worst gardens, most of the time," Vernon said. "Next year I'd like to put a lot more sweet corn out and hopefully the tomatoes will be better, too. We've had corn, squash, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, okra, purple hull peas and green beans this year. We've got a pumpkin patch coming on now, too."

The fields were prepared using two mules and a horse. "I hope to make the garden even bigger next year," Vernon said. Although, he doesn't like to use anything but organic or homemade products on his produce, he said he had to use some insecticides this year. "When you're putting that first garden out, you just do whatever you can to make it grow," he said.

Vernon and his family were the first to arrive in Arkansas from McKenzie, Tenn. "McKenzie's in the western part of Tennessee, about 5 hours from here. The Amish community had about 26 families living there. My wife's family is there," he said. "When I first got here I started on the shop and then the house. We lived in a small hunting cabin of Don and Laurie Benedicts until we were ready to move in. Then, my brother Amos and his family came in January and they stayed there while their shop and house was being built. When that ice storm hit, I told Don (Benedict) I didn't know about this, I wanted my money back," he laughed. "The storm really didn't affect us much. We buy groceries and supplies from the store, but we were OK for a while. We have a spring right back behind us, so we had water, wood heat, kerosene lights. The road was a mess and it took us a couple of days to clear it out. We were OK."

In addition to shoeing horses in McKenzie, Vernon and his family raised strawberries. "From the dirt I was used to working with in Tennessee, I think this is better dirt than we had there. It's river bottom dirt and it's good dirt. Only a few small rocks," he said. "I've been told how high this river can get up, but I guess that's one reason the dirts good. We've built the houses up higher so maybe the river won't get that high."

Although the river bottom land where his produce grows is rock free, "It's nothing but rocks from the house on back," he said. "That's been the hardest thing for me to get used to -- the rocks. We never had rocks over there (McKenzie). So, I guess you could say I like everything about Arkansas except the rocks, but I'll get used to them."

Vernon said one reason he decided to grow produce was because it was something the family could do together. "This is something we can do as a family," he said. "The boys, they all got out there this morning and helped me pick purple hull peas." Most boys (and some adults) would say the picking part of the garden isn't much fun, but Vernon's boys have an added chore that makes work look like fun. The boys have a small two seat pony cart and miniature pony they use to pull a small wagon around to haul the produce back to the house and of course, it takes a lot of trips to get those buckets home.

Vernon and his wife Ida have five children with the youngest, a girl, just a few weeks old. She was born at home with a midwife in attendance. Ida's sister is married to Vernon's brother Amos. After the baby was born, another sister arrived from McKenzie to help out with things. "I like having my sisters here, but one will be leaving soon. She lives with my mom and dad in McKenzie," Ida said. "I'm still trying to get adjusted. It's not like having a home and a place for everything yet. It will come. It just takes time. We've got it nice."

Vernon and Ida's home is still being built, but one area she is enjoying is the cooking area. "I really like that," she said. "We cook with wood and even though it's (cooking area) a part of the house, it's separate. We have these doors and can close the heat out. When I need to cook I don't have far to go." Many Amish homes, including Vernon's parents, Moses and Mary Ellen, have a cooking area that is in another building.

Ida says the children love the swimming and the fishing, even when the fish get away.

Vernon says he loves the creeks, streams and hunting this area offers. "I've always been a nature lover and I like to get out in the woods. Float the rivers -- that's one of my favorite hobbies. I want to go over and float the Spring River sometime," he said.

As most Ozark gardeners will agree, the four-legged critters are usually the most destructive to a garden patch. "I have sure had some problems with the armadillos," Vernon said. "But, the deer and the raccoons haven't found me yet, I guess."

The Borntregers produce stand is located at their house on Highway 395 south, turn left just past the Southfork Bridge. Follow the drive to the end. Handmade signs at the road let customers know what is fresh that day. None of the Brontreger family work on Sunday, but customers are welcomed out Monday through Saturday.

Next week we will introduce you to Amos and Mary Borntreger. Amos shoes horses to make his living in this small Amish community.

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I recently visited Ethridge, TN and was able to see the Amish families that live there. We purchased some jellies and jams, strawberries and tomato plants. It was a wonderful experience to see how they live and their children are just adorable.

I would like to visit the Borntreger's home to purchase produce. Do you have better directions? I live in Beebe, AR.

Thank you so much, Deanna

-- Posted by dlovesyorkies on Mon, May 24, 2010, at 10:10 AM

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