Leroy Boley has been bringing his produce to the Columbia Farmers Market for 16 years.
For the past five years, his sister-in-law, Agness Nickerson, has helped him at his market booth. “I exchange produce for her help. She really likes that,” he said. Over the years, Boley has become friends with many of his customers at the market, he said. After days of solitary time in his garden and fields, he looks forward to socializing with the market shoppers every Saturday, from mid-May through the fall.
Boley was raised on a farm with five brothers and a sister. “I worked in the fields and in the garden. Mom canned vegetables all summer long.” As an adult, Boley worked two jobs while he farmed corn and soybeans on 12 acres of land eight miles from Salisbury, Missouri. In 2012, he retired from his forklift-driving job, but he continues to alternate corn and soybean crops on his farm. He gardens on three acres of land, which includes a small orchard of cherry, apple, pecan, and peach trees, as well as his bi-color corn. “I bring the corn to market every weekend during the summer. Everybody loves that bi-color corn,” he said. Boley looks forward to it, too. “I really love corn on the cob.”
During the growing season, Boley also plants several varieties of pumpkins and squash, sweet potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and watermelons. He also grows strawberries and blackberries. “This year I’m going to plant some mush melons,” too, he said. In case you didn’t know, mush melon is another term for cantaloupe, he explained.
While Boley says he is “semi-retired” at 73, he doesn’t plan to give up gardening. “I just like to see things grow. I always have. I don’t work out; I work in the garden,” he said.