Marcus Chapman knows that every year around this time he’ll spend nearly every waking minute standing or crouching in a sun-baked field.
And every year for the past 19 years, the Windsor farmer has persevered through the good and bad times and continues to run his produce stand that promises some of the best sweet corn and fresh produce in northern Colorado — all in an effort to feed the community that he loves.
It’s all he knows — growing and generosity.
“I want to satisfy as many people’s needs as I can,” Chapman, 54, said from his Windsor-area cantaloupe field under the blazing afternoon sun. “I’ve got a lot of people where this is their 19th year coming. I never envisioned it getting as big as it did. It’s very rewarding to me.”
Chapman has made it his mission to feed the community, and that mission has only grown over the years. When he opened the produce stand just feet from his early 1900s-era home at 31985 Weld County Road 17, he had little more than a run-down shed that used bedsheets for walls. But as with anything, a little compassion and a lot of hard work have transformed his produce stand into a destination for the young and old alike.
He’s seen kids come week after week until they grow up and eventually bring kids of their own. He’s witnessed elderly couples who make it a mission to reminisce about their days of farming and seek out the savory sweet corn, which he picks every morning before the sun rises at his brother’s Fort Lupton farm.
And, most importantly, he’s seen the smile on people’s faces as they pick up fresh produce for the week — produce that is grown just feet from the cashiering table.
“That’s probably what keeps me going — the amount of respect and love people show me,” he said. “They’re like family to me. I’m their servant. That’s all there is to it. I want to do what I can, and it makes my day.”
Beyond picking corn from his brother’s field — he sells about 100 dozen ears per day — Chapman spends countless hours working on his approximately 4-acre farm, loaded with everything from cantaloupe and watermelons to tomatoes and cucumbers. He’s got help — a few seasonal workers along with his wife, Missy, and 15-year-old son, Robert — but he makes it a mission to connect with the customers and build the relationships he thrives on.
The stand had its earliest opening ever this year on July 9 and will remain open until the first hard freeze sometime in September or October, Chapman said. It’s a labor of love — he spends the three months prior to opening planting and prepping and the two months after cleaning up for winter. That leaves a couple months to “put on some weight,” which he often loses during the growing and picking seasons.
He attributes the nearly 30-pound variation to a tendency to get too caught up in his work and skipping meals.
“I’ve got the prettiest garden I’ve ever grown this year,” he said, pointing to row after row of carefully maintained crops, each capped with a patch of flowers.
And as usual, he plans to donate any extra produce to the Weld County Food Bank — 9,000 pounds in 2012, which he said he would be repaid for eventually, not by cash but by a good harvest and God’s grace.
From dodging summer hailstorms to salvaging a good chunk of crops after a 7-degree deep freeze, he said he’s been lucky, largely because of his pay-it forward mentality.
That’s what he has drawn on for 19 years. As subdivisions encroach and golf courses move in, he knows he’ll see plenty of old faces mixed in with the new — all of whom look forward to Chapman’s top-notch produce and compassionate personality.
If he has it his way, he’ll being feeding the community for 19 years to come.
“I’ve grown to love most of my customers so much,” he said.