William moved to Arkansas to retire, but it didn’t last. After two months, he retired from retirement and decided to start growing plants and selling them at the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market. Five years later, he’s getting good business—so good that I had a difficult time tearing William away from customers to take his picture.
William sells his plants at all three morning markets. His farm, Maple Acres Farm, is located between Bella Vista and Bentonville. He specializes in growing an impressive variety of heirloom tomato plants. Ask him for his hand-out detailing this season’s offerings. I didn’t know much about heirloom varieties, so I got a kick out of reading it. Here are some fun entries:
Eva Purple Ball: Vigorous 1800s heirloom from Black Forest region of Germany. Delicious, round 2-3 oz., blemish-free pink-purple fruit.
Bradley: Released in 1961 by University of Arkansas. Copious amounts of 7-10 oz. dark pink fruit with great taste. All ripen at same time. Resistant to Fusarium Wilt.
Tobolsk: 100-year-old heirloom from Urals near Tobolsk, Russia. 3’ round, light yellow-to-orange fruit with excellent sweet flavor. Rare and precious new find.
Fun reading right? To find out the other 11 varieties, you’ll just have to visit his stand. Besides his prized tomato plants, William also offers perennial flowers, 15 types of herbs, and as he puts it, “the best little strawberry plants in Northwest Arkansas.” He only sells plants (no produce), so customers will be able to care for their plants, nurture them to maturity, name them perhaps, then appreciatively devour them. Of course, the heirloom tomato seeds can be used over and over again, so if you’ve got a green thumb, the purchase of a few plants is really like an investment in tomatoes for life.
William was enthusiastic in conversation and happy to talk about his life. He was born in Minnesota, and has been planting his whole life. He used to be a junior high school social studies teacher, and in 1976 he started his own business in giftware. This sent him out traveling, selling at arts and crafts fairs all over the country. To this day, he remains active in arts and crafts, and this fall he will participate in many of our regional arts and crafts festivals selling jewelry that he designs.
Whether it’s heirlooms or earrings, William has become quite familiar with taking part in every stage of his businesses, from growing and creating to selling, in person, directly to the customer. “I’ve been some kind of peddler all my life,” he told me with a chuckle, but it’s obvious that he enjoys his livelihood. After all, he decided it was better than retirement. Still, I wouldn’t worry too much about him overworking himself. After the first Saturday of June, he finishes selling at the market and heads north to relax in his summer home in Wisconsin. So, get out the the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market, meet William, and check out his heirloom tomatoes while there’s still time.