By Kaylyn Christopher
Times West Virginian
Kenny Lough spends hours at a time tending to his vegetable gardens despite the summer heat.
“I like the sun,” said Lough, who is a regular vendor at the Fairmont Farmers Market. “Just the other day I was out picking beans when it was 90 degrees. But it doesn’t bother me. I’ll just pick for an hour and then get a glass of water.”
Lough lives with his wife Beverly in Montana Mines, where he and his granddaughters Kristen, 17, and Heather, 12, grow fresh produce that they sell at the market once a week.
Anyone who pays a visit to Lough at Veterans’ Square Plaza on Tuesdays will have their choice of corn, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, beans, peppers, squash, beets, cabbage and more.
On days when attendance at the market is high, Lough will arrive with a full truck of vegetables and leave with a nearly empty one.
“(Last week) I sold everything but a head of cabbage,” Lough said.
Lough said he has been involved with the market for more than 20 years off and on, and has seen it change venues several times.
Currently, the market is held from 4-6 p.m. every Tuesday and from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Saturday at 320 Adams St., Fairmont. The market showcases local farmers who offer vegetables, baked goods and more.
In addition, every Saturday the farmers market is accompanied by an artisans market and live music for the community to enjoy.
Lough has lived in Marion County for almost 60 years and said he was raised on a farm in Taylor County, so growing his own food comes naturally to him.
“That was several years ago,” he said. “All the stuff we raised and ate was from the farm. We didn’t have freezers or anything like that. We had cattle, hogs and chickens, and we grew and canned everything.”
While he was working at Westinghouse Electric and Phillips Lighting, Lough said the amount of time he had to put into the garden was limited.
“Back then I didn’t have a lot of time,” he said.
Since Lough retired 13 years ago, however, he said he has had more time to dedicate to it.
“There’s a lot of time that goes into it,” Lough said. “You’ve got to work almost every day to keep weeds out and stuff like that.”
During the growing season, between April and October, both Kristen and Heather assist Lough with the process by doing everything from mowing to interacting with customers at the market.
“I’ve been helping out pretty much since I could walk,” Kristen said. “I’ve just always enjoyed it.”
Heather said attending the market is her favorite part.
“I like selling and talking to people,” she said.
Lough and his granddaughters said they are constantly working to provide produce to frequent buyers.
“I have a lot of regular customers,” Lough said.
But even outside the market, several of Lough’s neighbors visit him at the garden hoping to stock up on fresh produce.
According to Lough, corn and tomatoes are the two items that are always in high demand.
“Last week I picked 20 dozen of corn, and that sold fast,” Lough said.
And when a product is good, word spreads quickly. Kristen said many of her co-workers have been asking her for ears of corn.
“We were talking about it the other day and they wanted to try it, so I’ve been taking some of it over there,” she said. “They love it.”
According to Kristen, there are benefits to eating homegrown vegetables as opposed to purchasing them at the store.
“There are a lot more preservatives in vegetables that come from the store than the ones that come from here. These ones are a lot fresher and less expensive,” she said. “Plus, they’re handpicked from a garden, not by a machine.”
Although it’s time-consuming, Lough said raising a vegetable garden has a lot of benefits.
In addition to growing fresh food for his family as well as his customers to eat, Lough said it keeps him active.
“It’s good exercise,” he said.
But, according to Lough, having the chance to spend time with his granddaughters is the best part.
“It means a lot. They keep me feeling young, keep me going,” he said.
Email Kaylyn Christopher at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @KChristopherTWV.