Tucked away behind an unpretentious house and a weeping willow is Mike Martignoni’s greenhouse. Inside is a botanical wonderland.
Cactus clippings are placed in a large tray for rooting.
From the ceiling hangs a strange assortment of hanging plants. On the floor and on every available counter space are pots filled with snake plants, queen’s tears, and more.
Martignoni is the man behind Papa’s Nursery, who regularly moves to the Victoria Farmers’ Market to sell the various plants from his greenhouse, the fresh produce from the community garden he grows, and other odds and ends.
“I like weird stuff. I like different things, ”he said, pointing to the unusual plants scattered around his greenhouse – dragon fruit, ivy cactus, African spear.
Martignoni started selling at the Victoria Farmers’ Market about two years ago as part of the Market’s Backyard Gardener program. The program allows residents to sell surplus produce at the market for a limited number of days each year at a greatly reduced price.
“The Backyard Gardener program is great for getting people started,” Martignoni said. “They can test the waters to see what they want to do, if they want to get into it full time.”
But backyard gardeners are only allowed to sell fresh produce or garden plants.
The program started about three years ago and was designed with two types of vendors in mind, said Meredith Byrd, market manager. Maybe someone has a personal garden or some fruit trees, she said, and while they can consume most of the food it produces, the Backyard Gardener program allows them to sell any excess. of products in the weeks when there is more than enough. It avoids waste and brings more fresh local products to the market.
“Fruit and vegetable vendors are by far the most difficult type of vendor to recruit for a farmer’s market,” Byrd said. This is because the cultivation of produce is so dependent on factors beyond your control, such as the weather. With the Backyard Gardener program, the market is able to supplement its full-time growers and bring more produce to customers.
The other ideal backyard gardener is someone who wants to get a foot in the door, she said. It gives them a way to see what the possibilities are.
Like Martignoni, Ronnie Meinke, 68, started out as a backyard gardener selling microgreens and an occasional batch of vegetables from his garden. Three weeks ago, however, Meinke and his wife decided to become full-time salespeople.
“We started talking about it and we said, if we’re going to the market, we might as well try to bring so many different things and a variety of things there, because we’re going to be there anyway,” he said.
Over the past couple of weeks, they’ve added pickles and handmade crafts to their offerings and plan to add more.
In 2020, the market had around nine gardeners. Three of these providers became full-time members this year.
“I would love to see him continue to grow at a good rate,” Byrd said. “As more and more people talk to these vendors about how they got involved in the market and then realize, ‘Oh, I could do that too. I have a garden. ‘