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Hamburg resident working hard to put food on our tables

HAMBURG — While most 12-year-olds might be asleep at the crack of dawn, Alan Henry of Hamburg spends his early mornings in the fields, long before the sun, picking produce for his roadside stand and the weekly Hamburg farmers market.

His parents, Martin and Barbara Henry, own 80 acres of land, with rows upon rows of flowers and a variety of produce.

When Alan was 3 years old, Martin Henry was out picking peppers. That is where the youngster said he wanted to be.

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” Barbara Henry said, about her son’s love for the work.

At age 5, Alan asked for a patch of garden behind the house. Eggplants were his first crop, because he said they “looked neat.”

Those few rows soon grew and Alan now has a variety of produce, which he sells on his own.

He said that he picks all day Friday and early Saturday morning, for the Hamburg market, and throughout the week, for his stand. When school is in session, “that really interferes with my picking!” he said.

Alan is on hand, to answer customers’ questions about his vegetables. He handles the money and does the upkeep on his roadside and market displays.

Customers can choose from baskets of tomatoes, red and white onions, leeks and several different kinds of squash. He also offers heirloom tomatoes, tomatoes with orange speckles, white eggplants, round, red eggplants and a range of peppers.

Alan grows green bell peppers and mild Hungarian peppers, but he said that his favorite is the Ghost pepper, which he said is hot, but not as hot as the Scorpion pepper, which he also has available.

When new seed catalogs arrive at the house, Alan peruses them, for new plants to try. He said that he likes trying different things that are not usually found at a typical farm stand.

He said that he would like to grow the jumbo pink banana squash and carnival squash. He explained the differences between hybrids and talked about the pros and cons of cross-pollination. “Never plant cucumbers next to watermelons,” he warned, “or your melons will taste like cucumbers!”

In February, he began his onions from seed, in his parent’s greenhouse. The greenhouse soon held an array of sprouted plants, ready to be transplanted.

In the spring, the whole family pitched in, to help with planting. After the black plastic mulch is laid, Alan drives the tractor up and down each row with the holer attached. His family comes behind him, planting seeds or seedlings in each new hole.

“That’s the hard part,” Alan said, “since too much of an error will poke a hole through the drip irrigation system under the plastic.”

Barbara Henry said that she is proud of her hard-working son. “I never have to tell him to take care of his garden,” she said. “He gets up in the mornings before we do and is always very self-motivated to do what needs to be done.”

Henry said that she lets Alan share part of her fresh flower stand at the local farmers market.

In addition to school work (Alan said that his favorite subject is science), the local boy also plays bassoon in the school orchestra.

When spring came around, though, he said that spare moments were spent working with his dad around their farm or on his own batch of seedlings.

Alan said that his earnings are being saved for a Corvette, a tractor and college.

His mother said that she thinks the tractor may be the more practical first choice, although Alan said he would like to focus on purchasing that Corvette.

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