Photos by Justin Fox Burks
Stopping by the True Vine Farm booth at the Downtown Memphis Farmers Market on Saturdays and chatting with owners Frank and Lisa Hart is always a highlight. They’re the warm and personable folks with all the beautiful herbs and vegetables, and they continually offer something unique, like the small, pale yellow bell peppers we eyed, all ghostly and odd amidst the beets, cucumbers, squash, basil, and mint.
In the past, we loved reading the True Vine Farm email newsletter. The Hart family’s humorous and honest account of the farming life offered a window into all that it takes to get what they grow to market. Recently, we decided to ask a few questions and learn more. The Harts’ home and garden is in Byhalia, Mississippi, and their farm is located in Rossville, Tennessee. “There’s a lot of relationship and emotion in food,” Lisa remarks as she explains that John Fitzgerald, who owns the land the Harts farm in Rossville, is a close family friend.
Years ago when they first started out, Frank’s desire for a career change was their motivation to farm. “We had been growing for ourselves,” Lisa said, “and we thought, hey, let’s give it a shot!” With years of experience to reflect upon now, she offered, “There’s a lot more that goes into it. Farming is such a small part of it.”
Charlotte, Beau, and John Douglas are the Harts’ children, and each has a role in the family business. Lately, Beau has put in many hours harvesting, and he was helping out at their MFM booth the day we visited.
“Beau does a lot of the heavy lifting,” Lisa said. “Even when it’s hot, he just sucks it up and does it. Farming is a good life lesson in that way.” Beau smiles and chimes in, “My favorite part is getting to see the fruits of my labor.” Of course, then we had to ask about any favorite things they grow.
“As a family, we all really look forward to beets and onions and basil and little cherry tomatoes. All of it,” Beau told us. “But what we really look forward to is seasonality.” He explained that he enjoys noting the end of a vegetable’s season just as much — or maybe even more — than its start.
The Harts take the time to talk to each person who stops by their booth and have formed strong connections and an easy rapport that were apparent to us as we stepped aside a few times during our conversation to allow their customers to chat with them and catch up. The Harts add a charming lightness and personality to the local food landscape, and we think it’s time for them and their standout produce to be celebrated this summer.
Amy Lawrence and Justin Fox Burks