by Lisa Tome
Matt Gaffney is carrying on a family tradition.
"My great grandfather drove up and down the east coast selling produce. Multi generations of my family have always been farmers. It's the only thing I know," said Gaffney.
Gaffney, 22, has started his own produce business, but rather than driving for miles, he's staying put. Gaffney is the anchor at Elkton Farmers Market on Howard Street. The market now has expanded hours.
"With any new market, you don't want to overdo yourself. You start small and expand it," he said. He formerly ran Angelina's Produce in Cherry Hill. Now, he's ventured to downtown Elkton.
"I've owned my own business since I was 19. And I've done ag stuff since I was 14. I've been in the ag industry for eight or nine years," he said.
Gaffney knows his business. He grew up in the 4-H program and is currently an adult volunteer with Stars and Stripes 4-H Club.
He's planted and is awaiting the harvest of tomatoes and other crops. For now, he's buying his stock at a produce dealer in Pa. where the focus is farmers selling to other farmers.
He buys directly from local farmers or goes to the market. "It's difficult. A lot of farmers now grow specialty crops. There's no such thing as small scale farming. You're either commercial or it's a hobby," he said.
He knows what the people want.
"Tomatoes are the number one seller. Strawberries have been big too. People get excited about local strawberries. That's always big and the season is so short," he said. He's also expecting a bumper crop of zucchini, squash, and cucumbers.
He expects to have local sweet corn by mid July. "Everybody wants silver queen. That's the magic words - silver queen," he said.
"You couldn't do this job unless you loved it. You'd last three days and then quit," he said. "I like dealing with people. I like talking to the public. I like the pride and joy if I grew that and made it come from mother nature. It's hard work and I enjoy it."
He plans to be open for business, weather dependent, until early November. The hours at Matt's Produce are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.