Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mennonite Vegetable Market

I returned last night from an extended tour of the Southeast--Texas to Mississippi to Tennessee to Alabama--and back. My favorite garden-related part of the trip was visiting the Mennonite vegetable market near Reliance, Tennessee.

My traveling companion--my about-to-turn-six-years-old niece--was fascinated by the horses pulling this tractor on the way to the market. I'm glad that she was too young to be fascinated by the teenage boy driving the horses. (She wasn't too young though to develop a crush on my friend's nine-year-old son.)

The friends we were visiting own a cabin in the Cherokee Mountain Forest overlooking the Hiwassee River. They are lucky to spend the summers there away from Austin's heat.

They regularly visit the market and know the rules. The Mennonites prefer that we, the women, wear long pants or skirts. (They provided literature inside on the proper adornment of women.) We didn't wear long garments, but I did make sure that my niece and I had on our longest shorts and shirts with sleeves.

All of the vegetables come from the fields around the market.

I was so impressed with how many varieties of vegetables were in season at the same time. These herbs I could grow in Austin now.

But that was about it. I hope that one day my potatoes will look as good as these.

I don't know if I will ever have room for this many onions and potatoes but a gardener can dream.

And dream. Of peppers.

And beans.

And of tomatoes.

The one surprise I found at the market was these sunflowers. I had no idea you could sell these or buy them, but I guess the seeds have to come from somewhere before they end up in a plastic bag at the convenience store. Later I saw some sunflowers along the banks of the river with plastic bags tied around the heads. I guess someone else was hoping to save the seedheads from the birds.

As we were checking out, I chatted with the man ringing up our purchases (he was literally ringing them up on an old handcranked adding machine). I told him about my troubles growing vegetables in Texas. He told me that he was originally from Houston and had lived in Texas for twenty years before moving to Tennessee. I don't know if he was a Mennonite the whole time, but I would have loved to learn more about his decision to live this way.

I could certainly embrace some aspects of the life, but I'm not sure what I would do without my camera and the Internet!


  1. Welcome back to the hellish heat we call home, Vertie. The Mennonite farm looks fantastic!

  2. How interesting. Did you take any more people pictures too, or would that have felt too intrusive?

  3. Pam, I didn't take people pictures because I did worry about being intrusive. The market was busy, and I didn't have a chance to ask anyone if taking pictures at all was okay. I figured if I stuck with the veggies I wouldn't offend.
    The Mennonite man at the checkout didn't seem to look at me. Maybe he was just focusing on his task but I also worried if it was part of their custom to not look a woman in the eye.