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A Staple of the Farmers Market Since 1918

Elmer Moje sells German Stiffneck garlic at his stand in the Tonawanda, New York farmers market.  For decades, Moje has been bringing his crops to the same market.  Photo by Sharif Hamdy

Elmer Moje sells German Stiffneck garlic at his stand in the Tonawanda, New York farmers market. For decades, Moje has been bringing his crops to the same market. Photo by Sharif Hamdy

It was 1918 when Elmer Moje first took crops to market with his father on a horse and wagon in North Tonawanda, New York.  Moje, who turns 99 later this month, still takes his crops to the market once or twice a week.

“I don’t have the wagon or the horse anymore,” he says with a laugh. “Back then it was all done by hand. My father never owned a tractor, he only had horses. Now everything is done by tractor.”

Today Moje grows only the German Stiffneck variety of garlic after decades of harvesting tomatoes, squash, peppers, melon, broccoli, and cauliflower.  “I raised 1,200 pounds of garlic this year, about three bushels. The stocks are real hard and you can’t braid ‘em. In cooking they use a lot of it.”

The local farmers market has served Moje and his neighbors well throughout the years.  USDA is celebrating National Farmers Market Week, and highlighting the important role these markets play in bringing fresh local food to communities across the country.

As a boy, Elmer pitched in when he wasn’t attending the local one-room schoolhouse in Wheatfield, near Niagara Falls. The Moje family grew vegetables, grain, and fruit on his father’s 81 acre farm.

Elmer Moje with his granddaughter. Moje used to help his father bring their crops to the Tonawanda farmers market. Photo by Sharif Hamdy

Elmer Moje with his granddaughter. Moje used to help his father bring their crops to the Tonawanda farmers market. Photo by Sharif Hamdy

After graduating with the North Tonawanda High class of 1931, Moje stayed close to farming over the decades. He returned home after fighting for the U.S. Army in Italy and North Africa during World War II.  In 1946 he got married and his father gave him two acres to farm.  While his professional career spanned 40 years at a local steel grinding plant, he continued to farm and bring his crop to the market.

Moje credits his longevity to good living and genetics: his mother lived to be 96 years old and his aunt made it to 104. “I drink milk three times a day,” he says.  “I never drink coffee or smoke. Everyone thinks I’m 70. At the farmer’s market I had to show one woman my driver’s license. She didn’t believe it.”

The Northeast region of the U.S. saw an increase of more than 14 percent its market listings in our National Farmers Market Directory.  New York has over 120 new markets listed.  The farmers market in North Tonawanda is held Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 6 am to 1 p.m.

8 Responses to “A Staple of the Farmers Market Since 1918”

  1. Janet O'Dell says:

    Great story. Thank you for your service Mr. Elmer Moje!!

  2. Liz Tenney says:

    I love these kinds of stories. What an amazing person and I wish I could get up there to get some of that garlic!

  3. Steve Trask says:

    I met him on Saturday, his 99th birthday. Super great person. the NT market is one of the best I’ve been to in Western New York.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I loved this! Thanks you for sharing. Here’s to Elmer and many more years of growing and selling garlic.

  5. M. Posey says:

    What a wonderful story, I loved it!

  6. Rayudu A says:

    I wish all Men can work instead of sitting lazy.
    Mr. Elmer Moje!! you are great example. should be show in national tv at prime tv instead of those BS shows.

  7. Randy says:

    What a great story!! Im 34 and my 4 year old daughter comes to the local farmers market with me to sell flour. I can only hope at 99 shes doing the same thing!!

  8. Eileen B says:

    What an uplifting story. Thank you

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