From peaches to watermelons, Homegrown offers customers fresh produce

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 3.24.33 PMHomegrown Alabama market is held on the lawn of Canterbury Episcopal Church, 812 5th Ave., from 3 to 6 p.m. each Thursday from mid-April through October. The market, run by University of Alabama students, features local farmers, product vendors, music and face panting.
By Myreete Wolford, Julianne Ferrante, and Alexandra Brodeur
Contributing Writers

A history major turned organic farmer, Andrew Kesterson has an eye for original and unorthodox produce to sell.

“Stuff that a lot of people don’t have, that’s what I like,” said Kesterson, a vender who sells his products at the Homegrown Alabama market each Thursday.

Homegrown Alabama market is held on the lawn of Canterbury Episcopal Church, 812 5th Ave., from 3 to 6 p.m. each Thursday from mid-April through October. The market, run by University of Alabama students, features local farmers, product vendors, music and face panting.

Keterson, 27, comes to the market each Thursday with a mix of sunflowers and soybeans, peaches, sweet potatoes and potatoes. But he’s best known for is the elusive moon and stars watermelon.

The watermelon, dating back hundreds of years, is a summer treat and a best seller for Keterson’s Belle Meadow Farms. The green melon is adorned with varying sizes of yellow spots that resemble stars and a moon, hence the name.

“Our biggest seller is the watermelon,” he said. “The customers just can’t resist.”

People come back to Keterson’s stand week after week asking if the melons are ripe yet.  The melons sell fast when they finally are ready.  The taste also makes them special, he said.

“People love how sweet they are,” Kesterson said. “I just like their history.”

Kesterson runs his small farm off Highway 69 South with his wife, Laurie Bethe Kesterson. The Kestersons have been selling their products at local farmer’s markets for several years.

Kesterson said he grew up in a town in north Mississippi and learned the trade from his father growing up on their family-owned farm. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he first picked up organic gardening as a hobby, but soon became a full-time organic farmer when he decided to forgo graduate school and take up farming on his wife’s family land.

“The opportunity presented itself,” he said.

He said the 12-acre plot is part of the elite 5 percent considered prime farmland based on a 1985 soil survey by the Tuscaloosa County.  Even after nearly seven years, Kesterson said he’s still growing as a farmer.

“You’ve got to grow things that will feed people – that’s why I’m here,” he said. “I’m still learning what are hot sellers.”

To learn more about the Kesterson farm and its fresh products, visit www.facebook.com/ttowngrows .