Verona octogenarian stays busy through the growing seasons

By Ginny Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

For years, Marcus Posey tended a single garden behind his home in Verona. Fruits and vegetables grew heartily along the 16 rows, each 100 feet long.
And then two years ago, Posey decided to build a new garden – this one the same size but on better soil – behind the old one. But once the second garden was ready to plant, the 87-year-old couldn’t bear the thought of abandoning the first garden.
So now he tends two large gardens.
“I started to sod the first garden, but I figured I could farm it as easy as I could mow it,” he said. “But it is a good bit of work. If you don’t care for it, you’d better stay away from it.”
Posey’s not afraid of hard work. After working at several jobs over his lifetime, he retired from Mid-South Packers 25 years ago. But even then he couldn’t sit still. In 1996, while helping to paint a balcony, he fell and broke his back.
And his wife of 61 years, Jo Nell, thought his field days were over.
“I thought we were through with that garden for good,” she said. “I was so happy. I started getting rid of things. And now, he’s got two gardens. I told him he was crazy.”

Year-round abundance
Just about any time of year, you can find something growing in Posey’s gardens.
“I kind of pretty well know what will grow here,” he said. “I’ve never tried to grow asparagus. I think it takes about three years to get it going and I don’t like to think that far ahead.”
In the spring, he has mustard greens, onions, potatoes, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.
Summer brings bunch beans, bush beans, pole beans, corn, tomatoes, okra, eggplant,
peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, strawberries, watermelons, cantaloupe, blackberries and muscadines, and peaches and figs from a half dozen trees.
In the fall, he’ll grow fall tomatoes, mustards, kale, and winter onions, cabbage and collards. He’ll also harvest the gourds he grows for purple martin houses.
“Martins like the real gourds better than they do those plastic ones,” he said.
While Posey has been around gardens all his life – he said he hated to work in his daddy’s garden – he doesn’t keep traditional farmers’ hours.
“I like to sleep late,” he confessed. “I harvest in late morning or in late afternoon. I stay pretty busy with it. I enjoy it. Fishing and gardening are my therapy.”
The Poseys eat from the garden and share the bounty with their immediate family, which can number 22 when they’re all at the table. They also can and freeze some produce and give lots more away.
“We make our own kraut and Jo Nell makes cobblers, too,” he said.
Posey has already harvested three 100-foot rows of early corn and gave the spent stalks to the city of Verona to use for fall festival decorations. Three more rows of corn are almost ready and a third planting will come due later this summer.
“The early part of the year it was cold and windy, and now it’s turned all hot and dry,” said the World War II veteran. “This won’t be one of my better years because of the weather. But that’s not going to keep me from planting. I’ll still have a fall garden.”