Market encourages youthful gardening

BETHANY – Several children gained an appreciation of gardening and its tasty results through a contest held by organizers of the Brooke County Farmers’ Markets.

Earlier this year Ruth Brown, Britney Hervey Farris and Dale Brant – who comprise the farmers’ markets board – challenged children in Brooke County primary schools to create their own 6 foot by 8 foot gardens and post photos of their progress on Facebook.

The children whose gardens were most thriving and met the size requirements and other conditions set up for the contest received cash prizes courtesy of Main Street Bank.

Prizes of $50 each were awarded to Cole Durbin, 6, and Clay Wood, 8, both of Wellsburg, who were the first and second place recipients. Another $50 reserved for the third place winner was divided between Sam Mockbee, 8, of Wellsburg and the brother-sister team of Brendan Rahr, 9, and Sydney Clark, 7, of Follansbee.

The other participants, Levi Stenger, Kendra Boyd and another brother-sister team, Sean and Emily Tribett, were recognized at a family night held by the farmers’ market organizers outside the Bethany Community Center Thursday.

The event also included corn hole games, ring and bean bag tosses, corn on the cob grilled by Charlie Farris and music from guitarist Aaron Carey, a lecturer at Bethany College. Students with the college’s radio station also were on hand.

Brown said after judging the children’s gardens Wednesday she was as excited as they were by the results.

In exchange for a $5 membership fee, the children received seeds for a variety of flowers and vegetables, including cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Asked which vegetables he enjoyed most, Durbin, the son of Bill and Megan Durbin, said he especially liked the green beans, which his mother used with ham to make soup, and peppers, which he ate in his salad.

Durbin said it was his first time to plant his own garden, and he plans to do one next year also.

The son of Harold and Kelly Wood, Wood said he had helped his family with a garden but it was his first year to plant his own.

Tomatoes and peppers were his favorite produce, and he enjoyed eating them raw. He added he’d like to plant cucumbers next year.

Clark, who is the daughter of Sonia and Brian Clark, was asked if she and her brother had any trouble working together on the garden.

“No, we both wanted to win so much we had to get along,” she said.

Clark, who accepted the prize for both because her brother was at baseball practice, said tomatoes were her favorite part of her garden, particularly in the homemade tomato soup made by her mother.

The son of Chris and Joy Mockbee, Mockbee said he was particularity impressed by the size of one of his zucchini, which had grown while he was on vacation in Florida.

Asked if he had any gardening tips, he recommended watering the plants regularly, weeding them and picking vegetables before they become too heavy for the plants that produced them.

“Make sure it (the garden) has plenty of water and plenty of sun,” offered Boyd, who would like to follow up her garden by planting an apple tree.

Stenger said his favorite produce from his garden were the banana peppers, which he ate plain. He said he hopes to plant pumpkins, watermelon and cantaloupe next year.

Tribett learned gardening can have mixed results, some beyond the gardener’s control. Some of his tomatoes had to be thrown out because they were affected by a disease, he said.

But he added, “We do have a zucchini plant that’s attacking the back porch. It’s really tall.”

Brown said she was impressed by the ingenuity of a few of the young gardeners, including Durbin, who put old newspaper and grass clippings around his plants to discourage weeds and Mockbee, who posted a “Do Not Touch” sign at his garden.

She said there are plans to hold a short course to offer gardening tips to next year’s participants.

All children who turned out for the family night were invited to participate in a scavenger hunt devised by Britney Hervey Farris, who with Brown and Dale Brant comprise the farmers markets’ board of directors.

Among various tasks, the children were instructed to find something that begins with their first initial, name the largest and smallest market items they found, name a fruit or vegetable not at the market and ask a vendor there why.

The farmers’ market vendors were selling a variety of produce, including ripe tomatoes, green beans, potatoes and jalapeno peppers as well as baked goods and homemade jellies.

The Brooke County Farmers’ Market has been coming to Ross Street in Bethany on designated Saturdays and Thursdays. Its next stops there will be from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sept. 13 and 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sept. 25.

The markets also are held from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on alternating Wednesdays in Wellsburg and Follansbee. The next Follansbee market will be held Wednesday outside the Tractor Supply store and the next Wellsburg market will be held Sept. 10 outside the Unity Apartments on state Route 2 at the city’s north end.

For updates, visit Brooke County Farmers Market on Facebook.