Janet Bachmann gives hugs. After meeting her for the first time to interview her for this series, I got a genuine goodbye hug. That alone is reason enough to love Janet. But ask her about her passion for farming and selling high quality crops at the Farmers’ Market, and you just might get weak in the knees.
Janet can be found next to her large white van at any of the four weekly markets. At this time of year, you’ll find her selling tulips, daffodils, and other spring flowers which she will gladly arrange into lovely bouquets. As the season progresses, she’ll offer irises, peonies, gladiolas, tuberoses, sunflowers, and more. By late fall, she sells more “woodies” like American Beautyberry and Red Twig Dogwood.
Of course, Janet sells vegetables as well. As she puts it: everything from asparagus to zucchini. She calls special attention to her cherry tomatoes, so don’t miss those. Also, she grows at least 40 different varieties of peppers! I don’t know about you, but I plan to try each one. I’m thinking the Flyer Foodie needs to hook us up with some summer-time stuffed pepper recipes…
This season marks Janet’s 15th year at the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market. During this time, she’s been on the board for 11 years, serving as secretary for some of that time. In the winter, Janet works part-time for the National Center for Appropriate Technology in the Sustainable Agriculture Program.
Janet, the oldest of 8 children, grew up on a small farm in Iowa. Her parents warned her that farming is hard work and that you can’t make a living from it. As all good children do, she listened to their advice and became a farmer anyway. Now, she happily lives and works on her farm, Riverbed Gardens, located just outside of Fayetteville next to Drake Field. The west fork of the White River runs right through her property. When asked, she offers tours of the farm, and she’s glad to invite anyone over to walk in the woods or go for a summer dip in the river.
Chatting with Janet, one thing soon became unmistakably clear. She loves what she does. She started to describe the special connections and friendships she has made with her customers, but we were interrupted by a customer and friend who had to come say hello, catch up, and of course, get a hug. Resuming our conversation, she moved on to her passion for farming.
Janet says that her parents were right: making a living with a small farm is hard work and there’s little money in it. Still, she persists, not so much because she believes that it is possible, but because she believes that it should be possible. Janet sees real value in small-scale farmers selling high quality crops directly to consumers. To promote that model, she and many other vendors at the market are willing to keep at it, whether it is profitable or not.
Despite all of the reasoning behind supporting local farms and community markets, for Janet, it all boils down to one thing. I asked why she chose to be a farmer. She answered, “It just seems like the right thing to do.”
Photos by M Taylor Long