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Examiner
  • A farmer's market tradition

  • God is good to Marie White.

    Without Him, she says, she couldn’t live a minute.

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  • God is good to Marie White.
    Without Him, she says, she couldn’t live a minute.
    On Saturday, the sun rose just before 6 a.m. and the air was already heavy with humidity. White, 84, sat patiently on the bed of her black 1991 Dodge Caravan, in stall No. 7. 
    She watched market customers beneath her wide-brimmed white hat with her sunglasses fastened on a clear chain.
    Her white loose-fitting blouse was tucked neatly inside brightly colored pants, her light pink Velcro shoes completing the outfit. White’s fingernails were colored with dirt, with her deepened veins a visible sign of hard work in her thin arms.
    “Are you gonna be up here on Wednesday?” a potential customer asks White.
    “No honey, I don’t come on Wednesdays,” White replies. “I do well to get here once a week.”
    She’d like to finish out the farmers’ market season – her 19th season. There’s only three months left, but she might have to quit sooner. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with scoliosis, but her doctor says she’s had a curvature of her spine since childhood.
    She remembers her mother’s scolding, “Stand up straight!” to which she replied, “I am!” White had polio at age 2 months, and she started walking at 16 months, a few months past the average age.
    “I just praise the Lord,” White says. “I could have been in a wheelchair.”
    At her home, she must wear a posture support while loading her plants. She works out twice weekly at Curves, a 30-minute fitness center for women.
    White’s circulation also is poor. In July 2008, she suffered hypothermia while rain fell at the farmers’ market. It took Centerpoint Medical Center health officials four hours to warm her body to a safe temperature, White says.
    There’s always weeds that need pulled. She digs and pots and waters all day, sometimes up to 15 hours a day before the summer months set in.
    “This is like so many other things – you never get through it,” White says. “There’s always more to do.”
    Neatly written in marker near each plant is a description. “Bog plant. Cats love it. Pot sets (sic) in a saucer of water. It’s a pretty plant if you don’t have a cat or cats. Get yours today!”
    “My daughter says it’s a hobby that got outta hand. She doesn’t think I ought to come sell plants, but I’d like to keep on as long as I live. Whatever God has for me, I’m willing to do.”
    Marie and her husband moved to Independence in 1985. She had only a few plants then, but they kept growing, she says. Today, they’re in the hundreds.
    Page 2 of 2 - White’s husband died in December 1997 at age 96. She now lives alone.
    Well, not completely alone. She does have her plants.
    In 2008, White had more than 300 plants, though that was a low year. One year, she had 700 starter plants that she individually counted. She says she struggles in finding enough light for those that really need it.
    She’ll still visit the market’s vendors and purchase produce, “but it won’t be the same,” White says. She might sell several houseplants and homemade jewelry sets at the market’s craft portion.
    Higginsville, Mo., resident Heather Laudie had a market stall near White in 2008, though this year, they’re on opposite sides of the parking lot. Laudie says she still adores White.
    “She’s just so sweet, and she’s just so cute with her hat, bent over the plants and messing with them. She knows all of them and how to grow them,” Laudie says. “I think it’s pretty incredible that she can still – at her age – dig all of those plants. It’s a lot of work.”
    Laudie laughs as she waits on her own customers Saturday morning.
    “I hope when I’m her age I can still do all that she does.”
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