Gardening the Hard Way to Supply the Newly Created Farmers’ Market in Vicksburg
Getting down on hands and knees to plant a garden is always good exercise for those who fancy raising their own vegetables for friends and family. Just imagine then, what it would be like to do the same if you were wheel chair bound, like Kurt Wiley who will have between six and eight acres planted and the expected produce for sale at the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market.
A paraplegic since the age of 14 when a farm accident crippled him, has not slowed Wiley down, in fact it may have energized him even more, according to his mother Caroline Wiley. He has for years been a cabinet maker and woodworker but last year when the economy slowed, he decided to turn to “truck farming” and built a wooden roadside stand to display the produce that he raised and harvested himself.
This year, he has become a major vendor in the Farmers’ Market. The interest in locally grown, quality food has grown, in the last few years, Wiley explained and this is what should make the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market a big success. “If we don’t run out of produce each week, especially the first few weeks while we don’t have a large assortment of vegetables, we hope the customers will keep coming back and build loyalty to the various vendors, not just me,” he said.
“It’s the taste of the fruit and vegetables that will convince people to purchase locally,” Wiley emphasized. “We’ll have lots of variety by July for customers and in the meantime, there will be meat, chicken, eggs, lettuce, rhubarb, and asparagus for sale when we open.”
Wiley comes from a farm family, the son of Matt and Caroline Wiley who have had a farm on UV Avenue and Oakland Drive since 1956. “Kurt is more precise than anybody I’ve ever known,” said his mother. As a child he was an operator of all things mechanical. It’s a gift he has, and he can turn that into planting by using a measuring stick, a hole-poker and his wheel chair as he goes along the rows and drops the tender sprouts into the ground. He will have over 4,000 individual plants producing tomatoes, peppers, beets, green beans, cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, egg plant, zucchini, sweet corn, squash, lettuce, spinach, pumpkins, broccoli and cabbage. He drives the tractor to cultivate and even does some of this by hand, his mother said with a tinge of awe in her voice. It’s all chemical free but not yet certified as organic.
By Sue Moore