My gardening efforts started when I was a child. I grew up on a 5-acre farm with my parents and six siblings. My mother raised chickens and my father was a carpenter-contractor. He raised cows for beef. Between the chickens and beef, our freezer was always full. We also had a huge garden. We grew every kind of vegetable you could think of. We did not grow eggplant, which, to this day, makes me happy.

When Patty McKeen and her husband bought a farm in Freeport, her father helped out by putting in the garden – including 68 tomato plants. eugenegurkov/

I remember the chores of weeding, picking and helping my mother with the canning. She canned green beans, tomatoes and beets. She stored potatoes, carrots and turnips in the old root cellar. The only veggie that I never could warm up to was parsnips. White just did not make me think of tasty.

When my husband and I purchased a 17-acre farm in Freeport, my dad thought that I had the perfect place for a garden. He proceeded to rototill and plant some tomatoes, beans, carrots, radishes and potatoes during a time when my husband and I were working full time. We came home to a beautifully planted garden. My dad always thought you could never have a big enough garden. I think he was planting for a family of nine like we were when I was growing up. He planted 68 tomato plants. Sixty-eight!

Anyone who grows tomatoes know that for two people, 68 plants is a little excessive. I spent my evenings picking ripe tomatoes, along with the beans and other vegetables, I was weeding and picking until dark. Then on weekends, I would process the vegetables. I filled my shelves in the basement with jars and jars of tomatoes and beans. When the shelves were filled, I started to bring jars to work and passed them out to anyone who would take them. I still had a lot of tomatoes. I once told Dad to take some home for my mother and him to have for dinner, lunch, anything that you could use tomatoes in  He told me he had two plants for them, and they were getting all the tomatoes they could eat. Two plants? He planted 68 for the two of us!

The second year, I told him he could not plant that many tomatoes. So, he cut the number down to 34! By the end of the tomato season, I had tomatoes sitting by the road so that anyone who wanted them could have them for free. I also put out the canning jars I had. I was officially out of the garden growing business.

We sold the farm nine years ago. I now grow flowers. It is great to see all the colors without the need to do any canning, processing or freezing. I planted one tomato plant last year among the flowers. This year, I will return to my neighborhood farm stand and buy my tomatoes. I no longer need to can tomatoes. They are easily purchased at my grocer.

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