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Honest-to-Goodness Veggies

In the country, a trusted type of commerce still works

Illustration by Anna Godeassi

Folks do things differently out in the country, whether it’s putting in a garden, processing their own hogs or raising beef to market.

Larry Westphal does a little of everything on his land along County Road 202 in Burnet County. Westphal, 70, has some cows and 200 head of sheep to keep him busy most of the year, but he’s taken his garden to a whole new level.

He plants and harvests vegetables and tomatoes in a plot near his house that’s about 40 feet square. With his wife, Judy, he picks, eats and cans what he is able to, but he still has a surplus almost every summer.

So Westphal decided to test his entrepreneurial skills and sell some of his annual harvest at local farmers markets. He also built himself a display stand several years back and sells squash and tomatoes and sometimes peppers to anyone who wants them.

But Westphal doesn’t sit by the stand, near the gate to his property. Rather, he hand-letters signs for each vegetable and sells them individually on the honor system.

The money goes into a small box that hangs off the stand, which could present a temptation for some, but this system works for Westphal. “Everybody around here is pretty honest,” he says.

“Unless it’s a cat or one of the neighbor’s chickens, I don’t lose anything to somebody stealing it.”

The little bit of money the stand generates doesn’t go very far. “It pays for the seed,” says Westphal, a Pedernales Electric Cooperative member. “That’s about all it does.”

Most of his business is local, too. “I think most of it is just our neighbors,” Westphal says. “Everybody has been pretty honest. I figure if they’re that hungry, they’re welcome to it.” When we’re driving past during the week, my wife and I debate how we’d eat our squash, if we bought some. I’m a sliced-and-fried guy, but Rana prefers stewed with onions—each the way our mothers made it.

Westphal comes by his gardening and farming instincts naturally. His grandfather, who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany, ran a dairy in Minnesota for years. “My dad left that place as fast as he could,” Westphal says, remarking on what a tough business it was.

His maternal grandfather was a sharecropper in Oklahoma, where Westphal spent some of his early days walking along behind a tractor. “I was 4 or 5 years old, and you can’t make a living off a place like that anymore.”

There’s not much money selling surplus vegetables for a dollar apiece either, but there’s more satisfaction. And that’s why he does it.