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Retired to the rocking chair? Not Louie Leonhardt, Providence gardener

September 21st, 2011 Posted in Business

‘You got to learn to get up at 5 a.m. and hoe weeds. There is no garden if you don’t know how to hoe weeds.’

By Mitch Figgat

PROVIDENCE — He has his ATV parked out in the front yard of his house. Attached to the back is a wagon filled with Ambrosia sweet corn. Next to the wagon is a table set underneath a blue sun tent. Surrounding the tabletop are baskets in rows on the bench seats. He sits on the front porch in front of a barbeque, which is covered with an Oakland Raiders sleeve. He is wearing a regular pair of jeans and hiking boots with the necessary amount of mud caked on sides of their soles. He keeps warm in the changing late summer weather with a camouflage fleece jacket bearing an Alaskan fishing tour insignia patch, and a well-worn USU baseball cap. He is Louie of Louie’s Gardens, but his driver license will confirm he is Louie Leonhardt.

Louie sets up shop every Wednesday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. in his brother’s front yard. With his ATV he hauls in sweet corn from the two fields he plants further up the hillsides near Providence Canyon. From the main garden behind his brother’s house, he brings vegetables including five different types of peppers, one of which is the children’s favorite, the gypsy pepper.

“They just bite into them right there,” said Louie.

Tomatoes, green beans, onions, cucumbers, squash, cantaloupe, lettuce and just about anything else that can grow in Cache Valley are brought to the table’s baskets or plastic sacks that are placed all along the table.

“We do the dollar system here, anything goes for an even dollar,” Louie explains.

Louie has been operating his front yard gardener’s market for the past four years since he retired from his job as an electrician in Salt Lake. A born and raised Cache Valley native, Louie used to farm produce with his father for the Del Monte Corporation. It was here that he gained the savoir-faire to operate the rural garden later in his retired life.

“We try to add a new crop every year. Next year we are going add some beets because they are saying beets are good for every part of you. So we are going to meet that demand,” Louie said.

Louie’s farm, which is large enough to grow over 180 separate pepper plants along with all the other vegetables that he planted at the start of the season, is all irrigation-fed. But it requires constant tending.

“You got to learn to get up at 5 a.m. and hoe weeds. There is no garden if you don’t know how to hoe weeds,” said Louie.

Louie chose the two open market days on Saturday and Wednesday so there would be enough time in between to tend the crops and make sure weeds and pests are never a threat for his produce. Surprisingly Louie usually breaks even when he combines planting costs and time spent hoeing weeds. But Louie and his brother have other plans to make some extra cash as winter rolls into Cache Valley.

“Come October 1st, we are going to plow up the garden and head on up to Northern California for gold prospecting,” he said.

Louie and his brother, both longtime members of the Gold Prospectors of America, have not passed up a winter spent in Northern California and Arizona prospecting for gold that runs currently at $1,800 an ounce. Louie has locations already picked out in both states that he feels will bring in the gold.

“I am not going to tell you where because I got something up my sleeve,” he said with a grin.

Once the prospecting has finished and warmer weather returns to Cache Valley, Louie will return and begin preparing the fields for next year’s crop to be sold at Louie’s Garden.


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