Friends and Neighbors

Justin Northcutt: How does your garden grow?

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By day, Justin Northcutt of Troup calls on plant farms and nurseries all around East Texas encouraging them to use Texas Organic compost. He knows how natural ingredients work in the soil and don’t have the negative effects of chemicals especially when it comes to our food supply.

By afternoon/evening, Northcutt takes his knowledge and skill to his own garden of about two and a half acres. He has learned a lot over the years but it wasn’t all from the books he studied in college.

It was his mother Lesa who he tagged along with in her gardens when he was a little guy. Some of those gardens were large, some were not.

“I wasn’t much help,” Northcutt said. “I was out there and did the little things I could to help out. Best of all I grew up knowing what mature corn looked like, how it grew from a seed to something that would end up on the table to eat.”

Northcutt said he helped his mom out more and more, the older he got but those later teenage years took him to a paying job of bailing hay in the summer. The garden moved further down on the list of things he really wanted to do. He then went off to College Station where he attended Blinn College and then was accepted into Texas A&M where he majored in Ag Economics.

During those college summers, he was planning to continue working the hay fields for some summer cash. The drought of 2011 put an end to that. There was no work for Northcutt and he turned back to his gardening.

The National Weather Service said 2011 was Texas’ driest year on record so how was gardening going to be any different than growing hay. Northcutt knew about irrigation and was able to put together a plan.

“I couldn’t get a summer job so I created my own,” Northcutt said. “The first year’s garden wasn’t big but it got me started.”

Not only did he produce enough to sell at the Troup Farmers’ Market but he also sold some in College Station.

He and his wife Annie moved out to Lubbock after they married and gardening was a bit more of a challenge but the minute they were back in God’s country the gardener’s green thumb immerged.

This has been an amazing year for the Northcutt garden.

“This has been a great year for tomatoes,” Northcutt said. “I guess it is just the right amount of moisture at just the right time. Every bloom on the plants would make a selling-quality tomato. Buyers want the attractive fruit.”

At the age of 25, he has only planted a garden himself maybe seven or eight times. He is still learning and is not afraid to try new plants, new varieties every time. Even with a steep learning curve he is always looking and learning something new.

A graduate of Brook Hill School in Bullard, Northcutt says he doesn’t know how many Bullard Brook Hill graduates are farming these days.

His crops for 2017 included broccoli and cauliflower planted back in February. He says they were still producing into June.

“They did very well,” he said. “They did better than he expected.”

Northcutt also planted potatoes; squash – zucchini, yellow crook next, spaghetti and butter nut; peas; cucumbers, watermelons and the list goes on.

His garden is still evolving. He’ll try some new things next year and will take a good look at the end of this season and make decisions about what to grow next year.

Annie recently graduated from law school and found a position while Northcutt is busy with both of his jobs. What spare time he has he has spent working on a bit of a remodel job on his grandfather’s house. His grandfather built the house, his father Jay grew up there and now Northcutt and his wife call it home.

“I’ve been blessed with good customers here at the Troup Farmers’ Market this year,” Northcutt said. “I have some regulars who come every Saturday and others who just happen to be coming by on 110 will stop and check us out.”

Northcutt encourages everyone to give gardening a try, even if it is just a tomato plant in a pot on the back porch. It is a great experience for kids and adults. Don’t be afraid to try.

“I make money either way,” he said. “If you’re putting it in yourself you’ll need compost and I will sell you that. If you are not putting a garden in, I am and I’ll sell you produce. I’ve got both ends covered.”

Visit the farmers’ market each Saturday, 8 a.m.-noon on Hwy 110 south at the Patriot Park in Troup.

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