Horticultural Heaven

 Horticultural Heaven

Local horticulturists bring produce and stories to Yellow Springs Corner Cone Farmers Market.By Carol Siyahi Hicks

At Partridge Pear Gardens heirloom vegetable stand in the Yellow Springs Corner Cone Farmers Market, you may acquire more than succulent, heritage food. You may take home a story, a recipe, a bit of humor—an experience.

It’s a labor of love for Xenia Twp. residents Rich Pearson and Tomasz Przepiorkowski. These experienced horticulturists truck their just-picked produce to the corner of Dayton and South Walnut Streets in Yellow Springs Saturday mornings throughout the growing season. They enjoy the market’s social nature and gain satisfaction from “growing nutritious food without deadly chemicals and knowing it’s safe and fresh,” Rich says.

You won’t find their vegetables in grocery stores. The vegetable varieties are not genetically modified and are open pollinated, producing stable varieties year after year, many very old—even ancient—in their origins. On their stand, you will discover vegetables with names like Italian Walking Onion, Sheepnose Pimento and Mortgage Lifter Tomato.

Many of the vegetable types have stories behind them, which both Tomasz and Rich enjoy telling. If you ask Rich about the Purple Haze Carrot, you might just get a Jimi Hendrix imitation. “You have to have fun,” Rich says. “The farmers market is like a carnival. I like having laughter associated with food.

“I love that people talk to us about cooking their vegetables,” he continues. “Years ago I managed an organic, vegetarian restaurant. So I like the mix of growing and cooking healthy food.”

They are horticulturists at their places of work—Rich at Cox Arboretum MetroPark and Tomasz at Studebaker Nurseries, Inc. Between them, they are knowledgeable in the science of growing fruit trees, the science and biology of controlling weeds, plant physiology, genetic engineering of vegetables, ornamental horticulture, native plants, tropical and landscape plants, and more. They have several horticultural degrees between them, most recently from The Ohio State University—and Tomasz holds a Ph.D.

Both of these men were raised on family farms where they acquired their love of plants. Tomasz grew up outside Warsaw, Poland, working with his two brothers and parents on their 30-acre vegetable and fruit farm. He remembers summers when they were up at 4 a.m., working till 10 a.m., then again from 5 to 9 p.m. to deliver freshly picked produce to a Warsaw wholesale company.

For Rich, “some of my earliest memories as a child involved a fascination with plants. I was raised in my grandfather’s house in Cincinnati on property with woods and 20 greenhouses begun in the 1880s. My grandfather had become excellent at growing African violets and related species. His garden and my uncle’s next door were a stop on a big Cincinnati garden exposition in the 1930s. I studied and read about all the plants and developed an interest in native, tropical and landscape plants.”

Their large, spectacular vegetable garden and his Polish Opalka Tomatoes remind Tomasz of his Polish roots. “In summer, I could go into our front garden and pick and eat whatever I wanted. It was heaven!”

A bit of heaven is available at their booth until roughly mid-September. You might just have to try one of those Italian Walking Onions or a blue potato—and ask for a story or two from these devoted, congenial horticulturists.