Jim Genuwine has been a fixture at the Oakland County Farmers' Market for 25 years. He and his family have had prime spots selling corn, potatoes, tomatoes, cukes, zucchini, melons, green beans, broccoli and more, all grown at his 75-acre farm.
METRO TIMES: When did you become a farmer?
JIM GENUWINE: As a kid. I've always been around a farm. We used to milk cows and feed hogs. Now we just do the vegetables and some soybeans.
MT: Are most farmers today second- or third-generation?
GENUWINE: Yeah, most of it's gonna be kind of a hand-me-down. The family's been into it. There aren't too many new farmers. It's too hard for them to get into it.
MT: How long is your season from planting to harvest? How long are the crops abundant?
GENUWINE: We got greenhouses, so we start the seeding, the tomatoes and most of that stuff, the first of March. And we start planting in the fields about the first of May. We go up to the end of October with the harvest. With the corn and the soybeans, that lasts until November or December.
MT: What do you do off-season?
GENUWINE: Usually fix stuff. You know wintertime: get things ready for spring. By the first of March, end of February, we're back in the greenhouses. During the winter the last couple years, my wife, she helps her parents make wreaths and grave blankets. That lasts till Christmas.
MT: How has farming changed for small farmers such as yourself over the last several years? Is agribusiness taking over the small farms?
GENUWINE: Yeah, I think it's getting a little harder as far as your prices. You gotta watch your step. You gotta watch what you do. You gotta watch every penny that goes in and out. I don't know. I guess I ain't a big corporate businessman. I don't know how to do it.
MT: How does the Oakland County Farmers' Market compare to some of the others in the area?
GENUWINE: I think they're all doing a pretty good job. I think this market's a little bigger that some of the other ones I've seen. A lot of good produce comes into it.
MT: What does the future hold for the small farmer?
GENUWINE: I think there'll always be some small farmers because mainly in the vegetables and that. People are looking for that home-grown freshness. The small farm can get it to 'em. The big ones, they still can get it, but usually you'll see your small farmers at markets like this. [The vendors at] your Oakland County markets and other local markets will be your small farmers.
MT: What do think is the best way to cook corn? There a lot of differing opinions on that.
GENUWINE: To me, if you got a good corn, just boiling it in the husk. Now home, out by the barns there at lunchtime, we got an old cooker, like a turkey cooker. Save the water. Don't dump that water out. Use it over and over. You cook the sugars out of the husk. It just picks it up by the water that way. I leave the silk on it and don't even loosen the husk.
MT: Do you put it into cold water or drop it into boiling water?
GENUWINE: Both ways. I don't think it makes a difference. I'll tell you truly, I eat more raw corn than I do cooked. Every time you go to the field you take a cob and chew on it if it's good. If it ain't good, you go on to the next. You're checking the new planting every day. I eat 10 cobs a day raw.
MT: What about organics? Do you use pestcides?
GENUWINE: We do use pesticides and fertilizers when we have to. It ain't like we go out there every seven or 10 days and spray. If you got a problem, then you gotta go out and address it. The same with organics. We don't do organics because of the problem getting into it. It takes three years of not using anything before you can even call it organic.
MT: I assume that most of the produce in farm markets is fresh, but how can you tell?
GENUWINE: You can usually tell by appearance. Like with corn, if it's dried-out and don't look good, chances are it ain't gonna be good.
MT: Do you see farming as a hard life or is it something that you grew up with that you enjoy?
GENUWINE: I guess it's something you grew up with and you enjoy. Yeah, I guess it's hard, but I don't think I'd do anything else. I tried a couple times working in a shop in the winter at night and it drove me crazy. I'd rather work hard and, at the end of the day, feel like I accomplished something.
The Genuwines operate a stall at the Oakland County Farmers' Market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. For info, see oakgov.com/cmarket.Jeff Broder does this monthly food interview for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]