August 2010 Edition - Radish Magazine

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August 2010 Edition - Radish Magazine

healthy living

Let us eat!

Farmers find a leafy niche

Randy and Lee Hoovey tend their lettuces beneath screens built to shield the tender leaves from the heat of the sun. (Photos by Gary Krambeck / Radish)

By Brandy Welveart

The farmer dips his tongs into tub after tub of lettuce, retrieving bunches of

picked-this-morning leaves. Red tinges some of the leaves. Others are dark

green and curly at the edges. The farmers’ market customers “ooh” and “aah” over

the colors and textures. Clearly, this isn’t the stuff that goes into bagged salads at

the supermarket.

This is Let Us Farm, the cleverly named, local lettuce business created by

Randy and Lee Hoovey of Geneseo, Ill.

The husband-and-wife team raise rare lettuces and sell them at farmers’ markets,

where their customers get to blend different types of leaves into unique salads.

“People come up every single day at the market, just like today, and say, ‘I’ve

never had this kind of lettuce,’ ” says Randy Hoovey, a former computer programmer.

He and his wife, a teacher at Galva (Ill.) High School, are longtime gardeners

who set their sights on forming a CSA (community-supported agriculture)

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business. Along the way, however, they uncovered their love of all things leafy.

They also discovered that they’re pretty good at growing lettuce — a crop that sets

them apart at the farmers’ markets where they sell their salads.

“We’ve sold other vegetables, but lettuce is our niche. It’s something that we

do well,” says Randy.

Let Us Farm operates a booth at the Trinity at Terrace Park Farmers’ Market

in Bettendorf, Iowa, and at the Freight House Farmers’ Market in Davenport.

Randy says they’d like to open a booth at the Geneseo Farmers’ Market again

soon — it’s the market where they got their start, after all — but that first they’ll

need to find someone to staff it. Then there’s the not-so-small matter of growing,

harvesting, cleaning and delivering enough lettuce to make a third location worthwhile.

Unlike some other food crops, lettuces continually must be sown to ensure

an ongoing harvest.

“We’ve been kind of on an upward trajectory,” he says, “but we haven’t ever

been able to produce enough.”

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