More young people come to Bennie Glenn, 65, for advice every year. This weekend, he’ll distribute the season’s first yield of advice and produce at the opening of the Holly Springs Farmers Market.
“I’ve never been afraid to tell people what I know,” Glenn said this week. His spreads of zucchini, kale, tomatoes, mushrooms and honey are the products of decades of work and learning on Genesis Farm, Glenn’s sprawling family lot behind Holly Springs High School.
For a long time, though, just a few people were privy to his produce. With no local market and Raleigh too distant, Glenn’s family sold and gave its produce to a circle of friends and elderly people.
That changed six years ago, when the town of Holly Springs debuted a fledgling downtown market. Genesis Farm was among the three vegetable vendors in the market’s first year.
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“It started out from nothing, really,” said Jeff Jones, the town planner in charge of the market. People would say “well, it’s a great market, but there’s not a lot here,” he recalled.
After that, “it gradually just grew,” recalled Glenn, who has ramped up production with the market’s increasing popularity.
In its sixth season premiere, the market should boom with 600 customers and 30 stands, including beef, chicken and pork vendors, a half-dozen produce sellers and several artisans and artists. Almost all the vendors produce or grow their products locally, according to the town’s website.
The town will run the market through October 13 this year, operating it with about $20,000 of sponsorships. It’s neat, Jones said, to make “people aware that there are farms in Holly Springs, and for a long time that’s what Holly Springs consisted of, an agricultural economy.”
Glenn’s family horse and produce farm is a major cog in that new agricultural economy, producing up to four tons of sweet potatoes each year and selling up to $7,000 of goods at the market each year. The farm was first a side job for Glenn, who moved to Holly Springs 20 years ago with his wife and her siblings.
Since retiring, Glenn has made the growing farm his main pursuit, working the fields with his brother nearly every day. He’s proud of the work, and he gives a good tour, pulling out juicy kale roots and onion shoots for his visitors, pointing out the frost burn that has touched some crops.
New growers’ plots are fragile, he said, ready to go wrong with any misstep. So as more people ask, he’s ready to teach, even when he’s not sure they’re listening.
“It’s a lot to it, and it’s something you can’t teach in a book. This is hands on,” he said. “You’ve got to put your hands in the dirt.”