Just before Richard Aman’s father passed away, he gave his son a small vial with special seeds it in. These weren’t any seeds. They were a family heirloom passed down from Aman’s great-great-grandfather, who brought them over from Germany.
For years, Aman has harvested the yard-long burpless cucumbers that have sprouted from those seeds, saving the seeds from the biggest of the bunch so the cycle can begin anew the following year.
“You let one grow and you save the seeds,” Aman said. “You can never get anymore of these seeds. That’s what my father told me, and what his father told him. They were an heirloom. I’ve saved these seeds every year.”
Farming is important to Aman, 75, and the love he has for his craft shows in the product he displays at the Sampson County Farmers Market.
On Wednesday, Aman ushered in the new market season by his lonesome at the Clinton City Market on Lisbon Street, displaying the cucumbers along with a variety of pepper plants, tomatoes, sage, sweet mint, dill, lavender and rosemary, among other products. He said more vendors would likely follow, as he is one of several loyal ones who have participated since the outset of the farmers market initiative years ago.
He also attributed some of his early yield, notably the tomatoes, to being produced from a hot house. He prefers the regular tomatoes, which he will have plenty of in the coming weeks, but noted the hot house variety are tasty as well.
“I expanded my operation last year,” Aman noted of his Aman’s Mini Farm, located on West Darden Road in northern Sampson. “”We keep branching out and getting bigger and bigger.”
Of his roughly 10 acres, Aman previously leased eight and a half acres to Gerald Warren, farming the remaining acreage himself. He took the land back last year.
“I had an acre and a half and it wasn’t enough,” he remarked of his own garden farming operation.
Since its inception, the Sampson Farmers Market has aimed to serve as a forum where locally handmade and homegrown goods could be sold directly to consumers in an effort to promote those homegrown ingredients and products. In recent years, the market has held hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday in hopes of capitalizing on the lunch rush.
Hours have been modified and the season lengthened to do everything to promote the market and boost traffic, to mixed results. This year, at least for Aman, he will be there from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on those three days. It didn’t take long for Aman to get his first sale Wednesday, earning $16 after selling a couple plants and cucumbers.
“I’d sell more in the afternoon,” said Aman,noting the benefit of holding hours throughout the day. “You don’t want to cut the customers out.”
Last year, Aman cultivated 16 rows of potatoes, at 440 feet long. All of them were sold.
“We had to go buy potatoes for us to eat,” Aman laughed.
He sold a bushel of habanero peppers through Feast Down East in Burgaw last year in next to no time. Along with his many varieties of peppers and other produce, Aman will have napa cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, watermelons and black beauty eggplants.
“You name it, we have it in the field,” he said.
Many women constantly ask if he has butterbeans. This year he will.
“I didn’t grow them because I didn’t like to pick them,” he noted. “They have offered to come pick them themselves.”
It’s something Aman does offer at his farm if people will call ahead. As for the tomatoes, he will have some from the field pretty soon.
“You can sell the dickens out of tomatoes if you have good ones,” Aman pointed out. “They’ll drive from miles around to get homegrown tomatoes.”
Aman will be back at the market on Friday. He named some of the other farmers who are usually at the market, including Leslie Williams and other mainstays at the market for years, who he figured were still getting their wares together and will join him soon.
“The more people you got the better it is, there is more variety even if you have some of the same stuff and they might have something you don’t,” Aman said. “The more people you have here, the more merrier it is for me.”
“We have had several other individuals inquire about being vendors but they may not have products ready yet,” noted Clinton-Sampson Planning director Mary Rose said.
For the market to enjoy success into the future, Aman said it is important for farmers to be there — and plan to stay all day.
“I think it could do great,” Aman said of the local market on Lisbon Street. “It doesn’t need to be shut down all the time. If you look at markets like the one in Raleigh, it’s open 365 days, 24 hours a day. They don’t take days off.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.