Susan Miller and her husband, George, both came from farming families. Together, they started growing vegetables at their home in Stanford Kentucky, at first just for their own kitchen. But over time, their backyard operation grew to a thriving farm stand and a spot at the Lincoln County Farmers’ Market.
“When I get out and work, I’ll change clothes and come out and I’ll stay out from probably 4:30 until it’s dark,” says Susan. “On weekends, it’s eight to 10 hours. You have to enjoy it in order to do it. You’ve got to work hard in order to be successful and that’s part of the way that I was brought up.”
The demand for fresh, local produce has brought consumers right to the Millers’ front door.
“I’ve been doing my roadside stand for about seven years,” says Susan. “We started selling at the house just in the afternoons and the weekends. We have a couple of factories that get off work around 2:30 or 3:00. Sometimes my driveway is full of people that want to buy tomatoes and things like that. I’ve got signs that I put up over town about my produce, so people will know that we’re open for business.
“I had a couple of people that were really interested in our business here at the house,” she says. “They stopped by and they asked would we be interested in coming to the farmers’ market.”
At first it was just the Millers and a couple of other farmers, but the market has grown substantially since then. Susan says they’ll see between 75 and 100 shoppers come through each day that it runs. Visitors to the market are often looking for varieties of produce that they can’t find at the grocery store, like heirloom tomatoes.
“People really enjoy the heirloom tomatoes,” she says. “It seems like every time you turn around someone’s wanting a pineapple tomato or a chocolate tomato or the brandywine. They don’t ship very well, it’s something that you just have to buy at the farmers’ market and to take home to eat or to can.”
The Millers’ booming hobby farm produces much more than just specialty tomatoes. They grow beans, melons, peppers, and much more, and are continuing to add and adjust what they grow in response to consumer demand.
“Kentucky State University got us started on sweet potatoes, so we’ve got a beautiful row of sweet potatoes,” Susan says. “We’ve got three pear trees and we’re going to invest in apple trees, blackberry vines and just different things. Our cherry trees here really produce; we have a lot of cherries in the spring.”
Besides the benefit of some added income and the enjoyment of high-quality fruits and vegetables, the Millers find rewards in the small-farming lifestyle they’ve built for themselves, and the happiness it brings to other people.
“We enjoy it,” says Susan. “We enjoy getting up every morning and sitting on the back porch and having a cup of coffee and looking out and seeing what we’re growing. We enjoy knowing that we can deliver something to a restaurant, and we can go and eat at that restaurant and say this is our corn that we grew, or this is our tomato on this hamburger. It makes us feel good.”