A bright red canopy makes it easy to spot the Baker family’s stand at the Countryside Farmers Market in Peninsula. On a typical summer Saturday, customers are lined up waiting to buy sweet onions, red potatoes, green peppers, yellow tomatoes and clover honey. Bob enthusiastically answers questions about what to do with okra, explains that he uses no chemicals or pesticides on his crops and swaps recipe ideas for tomatillos. Sons Bret, 12, and Grant, 9, make change. His wife, Donna, is at a market in Wooster with the other three kids, Joe, 15, Troy, 13, and Bethany, 7, doing the same thing.
Donna’s still surprised that the kitchen garden they put in soon after they bought their Wadsworth home 16 years ago has snowballed into a business. “Bob keeps finding another patch of ground to dig up,” Donna says. The couple now farms nearly 5 acres and tends eight beehives. They raise 42 different crops representing 230 varieties. “We started out growing just for ourselves,” Bob says. “Then we put a picnic table out front with the surplus for sale. Next we set up a bigger roadside stand. Now we do two markets a week.” At the height of the season, he’s got half a ton of vegetables to load in the family’s two trucks. The kids get paid to help out, and their parents say they couldn’t do it without them. But the venture does more than provide extra income: “I believe in this as a way of life for my family,” says Bob. “I’m happiest when we’re all out there in the fields together.”