Cultivating new future at farm, market
As director of computer programming for a mail-order pharmaceutical company, Bob Vaughn spent 15 years commuting three hours a day to and from northern New Jersey.
The commute and the 10-hour workdays left little time for family, Vaughn said.
"The day was shot," he said.
That's why the Alpha native left the rat race and started a little farm in Plainfield Township. And he's since added to his resume, as manager of the Easton Farmers' Market, which opens for the season Saturday.
Vaughn, a West Easton resident since 1997, had done a bit of gardening in the past, but had no farming experience before he opened Mona Mae Farms last year.
"I wanted a different kind of career where I could be my own boss," he said.
Hydroponic tomato farmer
Mona Mae Farms, named for Vaughn's mother, features a hydroponic tomato greenhouse. Hydroponics -- the science of growing plants without soil -- allows farmers and home gardeners to extend the growing season through the winter.
After planting his tomatoes around Christmas, Vaughn said he'll have fresh tomatoes by the end of April, instead of by mid-July using traditional farming methods. He's also experimenting with hydroponic lettuce, and is considering growing peppers, cucumbers and eggplants this year the old-fashioned way.
Hydroponic farming is a labor-intensive process. But the peaceful solitary work is a welcome change from the fast-paced climate of his former profession, he said.
A second career at hand
Vaughn -- who designs and maintains Web sites on the side -- never imagined while sitting in front of a computer monitor that he'd be farming tomatoes or managing a farmers' market.
"I could not have predicted it in a million years," Vaughn said. "They say you have two or three careers in a lifetime. This is career number two, so we'll see how it works out."
Vaughn plans to spend his first season as market manager familiarizing himself with the market's operations. But other projects include maintaining and refining the market's new Web site that he designed.
The site will update patrons weekly on new vendors, activities, recipes and biographies on the local vendors. Vaughn said he'll also continue the weekly e-mail newsletter, work to attract new vendors and finalize details for a new frequent buyer program.
"We really want to try to get regular customers to the market," he said.
Changing of the guard
Lynn Prior co-managed the market for three years with Nancy Gameson. At the start of last season, Prior began searching for a new manager.
No one expressed much interest until Vaughn agreed last winter to take over, she said.
As a vendor last season, Vaughn offered input, attended all the board meetings and became involved in special events such as the Garlic Fest and Strawberry Festival, she said.
"He was ready to take over," Prior said.
And Vaughn's homegrown tomatoes?
"Once you taste them, you'll go to the market every week to get his tomatoes," Prior said.