Rick Hymer has been a New Jersey farmer for 25 years. It is what he has always wanted to do. He loves being his own boss, growing flowers and vegetables, and sharing all of that with his family and friends. Us. He considers those of us who have shopped at his stand at the Collingswood Farmers’ Market for the entire life of the market, his friends.
Rick Hymer does not sell a crazy wide variety of things. He sells flower, herb, and vegetable plants in the Spring. During the summer he sells tomatoes, bi-colored corn, peppers, cucumbers. And in the Fall he sells the best red-skinned potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
I love cabbage and Rick Hymer’s cabbage is the best I’ve ever eaten. He explained that he uses seeds from a vintage variety. It’s the best for soup, a side dish, stuffed, cole slaw. Years ago when I lamented the impending loss of his delicious cabbage he told me how to “grow” it so that I would have it all winter. He sold me several heads of cabbage that he dug out with the roots still attached. I did as he instructed. I buried those cabbage heads upside down in my garden with the roots sticking out like a handle. I covered them with dirt and waited. When I needed cabbage, weeks, months after the market had closed for the season, I grabbed the root and pulled a head out. I peeled off the layer of outer leaves and I had a gorgeous fresh head of Rick Hymer’s delicious cabbage. Sometimes the winter weather was too harsh and the cabbage didn’t make it. But more than one year I pulled the last buried head and cooked that cabbage with my corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day!
So far this Fall I’ve purchased those much anticipated sweet potatoes and broccoli. Cauliflower is coming soon. This odd summer (weatherwise) has pushed back the harvest
The average American farmer works more than 10 hours a day, 7 days a week. Rick does. To be sure to bring something to his table for our table.
But, farmers are also people. People like us. People who like spending time with families, watching the game on Sunday, reading the newspaper, playing with our grandchildren.
Rick Hymer says that his least favorite aspect of farming is the long hours, and that there is no guarantee for a successful crop. He regularly misses family gatherings because ripe tomatoes or the day the cauliflower must be planted wait for no man. And sometimes, even with all the time and sweat and sacrifice, the crop fails.
Rick thinks this is the year he will retire from farming. But he says he will keep his greenhouse open. He’ll be back to Collingswood in the Spring with flowers to sell. Probably herbs and vegetable plants. He thinks he’ll plant a little bit. Enough to sell at his home farm stand. He thinks he might offer his help to other farmers too. Definitely he’ll find his way back to The Collingswood Farmers’ Market in some capacity. He feels like the people there, shoppers and vendors, are his friends. And he is sure he’s going to miss them. He likes talking with them.
I hope he’ll be back. I like what he sells and I like what he says. And he always has a smile. But if he decides to grab his fishing pole and head out for some peace and quiet, I wish him many long and happy years.
Rick Hymer is a farmer. Farmers are people too. And Rick Hymer is one of the best!
Mashed broccoli (for people who don’t “like” broccoli)
Trim and steam a head of broccoli.
When the broccoli stalk can be pierced with a knife and is soft enough to mash, take it out of the steamer. Put the broccoli in a serving bowl. Drop some butter on top to melt. When the butter is melted, mash with a potato masher or large fork (or puree it with an immersion blender). Sprinkle with salt to taste. Serve.
Sweet Potato Baked Home Fries
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash and peel the sweet potatoes. Cut into even sized chunks of about an inch. Put the potato chunks into a pot of water and boil them until a knife just pierces them (about 10 minutes). Drain and put the potatoes back into the hot pot. Stir gently and quickly with a wooden spoon to “rough them up”. Drop butter into the pot to melt. Coat the potatoes with the butter. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Dump the potato mixture onto a foil lined tray. Bake in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes. Watch for doneness….they will get browned. When they are browned to your liking, take out of the oven and scoop into a serving bowl and enjoy!
Produce from Hymer Farm.