Parsons training yet another young farmer

Behind his parents’ home off Route 20 in Dagsboro, Tyler Parsons snatched up a rake and went to work, seemingly determined to carry on his family’s farming tradition. But problems remain. Tyler is unfocused, and is just as determined to slip off for occasional naps during the work day.

Tyler is the 18-month-old son of Paul and Meredith Parsons, whose farming roots span across at least four generations and two states. And they are another family, with spreading farming roots, that will participate in the inaugural Bethany Beach Farmer’s Market, which is set to kick off in the Mercantile Peninsula Bank parking lot on July 1.

Paul Parsons, 24, the son of Preston Parsons — who still farms local land passed on by both of Paul’s grandfathers — talked about his family’s blooming tradition last week.

“I just like farming,” said Paul Parsons, who studied the business at Delaware Valley College in Pennsylvania, where he met his wife, Meredith. “You put the seed in and watch it grow; I enjoy it.”

Preston Parsons’ younger son, Andy, 13, has not yet taken a similar interest in the business but will be selling produce at the market this year. Preston Parsons said he is not surprised by his elder son’s passion for the industry.

“I think it’s good,” Preston Parsons said last week, standing in a garage next to a refurbished GTO and a myriad of gourd seeds, including white pumpkins, traditional pumpkins and a variety of squash. “That’s always what he wanted to do. He’s helped me the whole time.”

The Parsons are known for their watermelons and pumpkins, which they harvest in the late summer and fall in sizes ranging from 4 to 300 pounds.

Paul and Preston hope to specialize in watermelons at the market, which they will harvest in early July from 12 acres on the 115-acre farm off Route 20, where chicken houses serve as the backdrop. Preston still raises chickens for Purdue as a practicing member of the still-thriving local chicken industry, in which his father was also a worker.

The family’s fresh-grown produce available at this year’s farmers’ market will include watermelons and could also include cantaloupes, squash, zucchini, eggplants and tomatoes. (The produce is also going to be available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the family’s market on Route 20, which will open soon.)

Delaware Department of Agricultural officials and local farmers partnered last year in attempts to bring a farmer’s market to Bethany to introduce farmers, farming families and their produce directly to the consumer in a highly-traveled tourist destination.

The market will run from 8 a.m. to noon on eight straight Sundays, beginning July 1. Some 10 to 12 participants are expected to sell produce there this year, which, by official Delaware farmer’s market rules, must be home-grown on their farms.

Paul Parsons said the produce his family will sell this summer in Bethany will be “picked and sold that day. You can’t get it any fresher.”

Meredith, Paul’s wife, who grew up on a dairy farm in West Chester, Pa., will also have an active role at the market, besides serving as another Parsons salesperson. She volunteered to serve as the “market master,” overseeing all operations and enforcing regulations.

“Somebody has to do it,” Meredith Parsons said.

“I figure I’ll be there anyway,” she added, noting that the operation of a dairy farm, such as the one she grew up on, is different from a produce and chicken farm but the premise is the same. “We’re excited,” she added.