An 8-year-old’s fantasy can be a fragile thing. So, when young Trevor Williams pulled two tomatoes out of his family’s refrigerator late last March and started carefully removing the seeds and slipping them, three at a time, into a couple of large planter trays, his dad, Steve, tried to gently infuse a little reality into the mix.

“I set his expectations fairly low,” said Steve, my next-door neighbor, as we stood in his backyard early Friday. “I said, ‘Trevor, these things, you know, they might not grow. Growing tomatoes from seeds is really, really hard. I don’t know if we’re timing it right. And we don’t have a greenhouse.'”

Steve paused. “Then, all of a sudden …”

Some kids spend their summer glued to a computer screen. Others complain, two days after the long-awaited last day of school, that there’s nothing to do.

Not Trevor.

“Now look at them!” he said, picking up where his dad left off with a theatrical sweep of his arm and an ear-to-ear smile.

Behind him, the fruits of his labor soaked up the late-summer sun: Eighty-six tomato plants, most of them now towering over Trevor. Hanging from each plant an average of 15 fast-ripening, perfectly shaped tomatoes – not counting the dozens he’s already picked.

Let’s see, 86 plants … with 15 tomatoes on each plant … means how many tomatoes?

“I haven’t gotten that far with my multiplication yet,” confessed Trevor, now two days into fourth grade.

Steve switched his phone to calculator mode. Trevor carefully punched in the variables and hit the equal sign.

“Whoa!” he howled. “One thousand, two hundred and ninety tomatoes!”

Green thumb, meet field of dreams.

It’s hard to say exactly when and how it all started. Maybe somewhere between Trevor’s fascination with how things grow and his desire to save enough money to buy a hoverboard.

At first, he thought he might get a job at Snell’s Family Farm, just down the road from his home in Bar Mills. But a kid must be 16 to work there and Trevor, for all his ambition, had just turned 8.

No problem. He’d become a farmer all on his own – starting with the pair of tomatoes in the family fridge and two sets of planter trays he got down at Aubuchon Hardware on Main Street.

Trevor Williams surrounded by his crop in his backyard in Buxton. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

“I thought, ‘This is the easiest way to get money,’ ” he said.

“Because farming’s easy!” chortled Steve.

It should be noted that Trevor, in addition to budding farmer, is a born salesman.

Earlier this summer, as I slogged through the final stages of mowing my lawn, he suddenly appeared at the end of a long row with a friendly wave and that trademark grin.

“Wow, you’ve been working really hard,” he said admiringly.

“I sure have,” I said, blinking the sweat out of my eyes. “It’s hot out here!”

Without missing a beat, Trevor pointed to the lemonade stand he and his older brother, Tucker, had just set up alongside the road.

“Can I interest you in a glass of lemonade?” he said.

On its best day, the lemonade stand netted $126 – a combination of hard work and Trevor’s sudden realization that if he parked his 4-year-old sister, Gabby, out there to smile at the passing cars, the response rate rose exponentially.

“You don’t have to do anything,” he told her. “Just sit there.”

A month or so ago, when the green beans, summer squash and other crops in the family garden started coming in, Trevor made room for assorted vegetables next to the lemonade and, presto, sales skyrocketed.

And the tomatoes?

“I actually didn’t have any yet, so I had a tomato sign-up sheet,” he said.

Steve, duly impressed with his boy’s entrepreneurial spirit, helped him set up an Instagram page and christened it “Farmer Trey 1087” – the number coinciding with the family’s street address.

Trevor, meanwhile, kept careful watch over his bumper crop of tomatoes – “I do not like weeding. Zero percent!” – and shifted into full-marketing mode.

On yet another trip to the hardware store for taller stakes, he sealed a deal with the manager for six fist-size green tomatoes. A day or two after that delivery, he dropped off four more.

Just before the Williams clan headed for a recent picnic and barbecue at their church in Saco, Trevor disappeared into the tomato patch, picked a few dozen of his finest specimens and set his price at a rock-bottom $2 per pound.

He nearly sold out.

“At the end I had a couple left,” he said. “So, I gave out free samples to people who didn’t buy any.”

Smart kid. Give ’em a taste of what they’re missing.

All told, Trevor’s hoverboard fund now totals somewhere around $150. He figures once he achieves that goal, he might start shopping for an electric scooter … or maybe start saving for his first farm.

More importantly, he’s spent his summer learning about everything from self-pollination to labor relations.

Back when he was out there slaving over his seedlings without much to show for it, his two brothers and other kids from the neighborhood gave him a wide berth.

“Now they’re starting to see the money come in,” Steve said. “And they’re all saying, ‘Hey, Trevor, what can we do to help out?’ ”

Trevor nodded. “My (younger) brother Tanner’s friend Ronnie asked if he could get a job. I said sure. But he didn’t really know what he wanted to do, so…”

Which is a diplomatic way of saying it’s hard to find good help these days. And with school now back in session and more than 1,000 tomatoes still ripening before his very eyes, Trevor is well aware that crunch time is upon him.

He’ll sell as many tomatoes as he can. His mother, Kim, will get out the canning jars and start preserving. There’s even talk of homemade ketchup.

Then, early next spring, he’ll open the fridge and do it all over again.

“He’s learning stuff and having a blast,” Steve said. “And I’m tickled.”

Farmer Trey, much as he worships his dad, is not so easily flattered.

“When I grow up and have a farm, he wants to drive the tractor,” he said, pointing to Steve.

And?

Trevor shook his head.

“I don’t know about that.”

 

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