Farmers’ Market Profile: Peggy Maringer – Giraffe Gardens

Surely some of our readers have gotten a good chuckle from seeing the bumper sticker that says, “Springdale: It’s not that bad.” This week, at the Thursday farmers’ market, I learned that Peggy Maringer coined that slogan, made those bumper stickers, and even wrote a song. Yes, a song about Springdale. Want to hear it? Ask nicely, and she might sing it for you from her stand at the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market.

The first items that stood out to me about Peggy’s stand were her bamboo shoots. Bamboo is a big crop on her farm, so she sells shoots and poles and provides a pamphlet with instructions on preparing the shoots, frequently asked questions, and a few recipes (see below). She also sells many items in the onion family (onions, garlic, leeks), as well as tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, red raspberries, celery, and more. Find her this Saturday and buy some of her deep purple Siberian Irises for your Mother’s Day bouquet.

Peggy shows shoots

With so many offerings, it’s no wonder that Peggy farms a full five acres of land on her farm, Giraffe Gardens, in Springdale. The name “Giraffe Gardens” comes from the giraffe-skin look of Peggy’s house, which was constructed with an old cobblestone exterior making it a classic Ozark “giraffe house.” Also, she likes giraffes because they evolved such long necks that allow them to reach higher. The image serves as a sort of metaphor for her own attitude towards life.

Peggy has been a grower of sorts as long as she can remember. She grew up next door to her grandmother who came from a rich Dutch gardening tradition. When Peggy turned five, her grandmother gave her a spot in her garden and she’s been growing ever since. Her Springdale farm has been growing naturally for 30 years, but she began selling at the farmers’ market only in 2004. Peggy typically sets up at the Saturday market on the square, but she’ll begin attending the new Sunday Farmers’ Market at the Ozark Botanical Gardens beginning May 31st.

Bamboo shoots

In addition to growing an impressive array of plants, Peggy has a plethora of other hobbies and skills. At her stand, you’ll find loose leaf teas that she grows and dries herself. She also makes her own recycled paper greeting cards. In the winter she teaches private art lessons and even does a bit of furniture upholstering (take that Martha Stewart). With such diverse talents, it’s no wonder that she used to be a full-time art teacher. She told me that she loved teaching art, but soon grew weary of high school students and their back-talk. She ultimately chose gardening over teaching because, as she put it, “vegetables don’t talk back.” She also added, “weeds can be pulled without upsetting their parents.”

I didn’t go to the market on Thursday to look for Peggy, but as I passed her stand, I couldn’t help but stop and chat. Her content smile and warm demeanor drew me in at once. I really enjoyed engaging with her youthful expressions, her humor, and her love of gardening. It wasn’t until the very end of our conversation that I noticed the all-to-perfect slogan on her apron: Don’t grow up, grow vegetables. If any of our readers are feeling a bit sluggish or down due to the dreary weather of late, I suggest stopping by the Giraffe Gardens stand this Saturday morning, rain or shine. Buy some flowers for mom, have a good chat with Peggy, and shake things up a bit with one of her bamboo recipes.

Photos by M Taylor Long

Recipe for Garlic Bamboo Boats:
Slice shoots lengthwise, boil for 10 minutes but don’t peel. Slather the interior of the shoots with garlic butter and Parmesan cheese and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees or wrap in foil and grill. Eat like an artichoke—everything that is chewable can be eaten.

Recipe for Marinated Bamboo Hearts:
Slice shoots lengthwise, boil 10 minutes, peel and chop into bite sized pieces. Cover with a marinade of Olive Oil, Vinegar, Garlic, Slat, and Pepper, or your favorite Italian Dressing. Let stand in the refrigerator overnight. Similar in flavor to marinated artichoke hearts.