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Saturday, October 16, 2021
<p>Joe Durando, a two-time UF alumnus, runs the Possum Hollow Farm, located 15 miles north of Gainesville. His produce will be for sale at the Union Street Farmers Market on Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m.</p>

Joe Durando, a two-time UF alumnus, runs the Possum Hollow Farm, located 15 miles north of Gainesville. His produce will be for sale at the Union Street Farmers Market on Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m.

Joe Durando watched as people mingled around his vegetable stand - a girl cradling a white kitten while singing "Hound Dog" and a young couple holding hands nearby - on his first day back to the Union Street Farmers Market.

His stand holds wares that could be hard to find at a grocery store: purple and green eggplant, starfruit and chestnuts.

Durando's romance with vegetables has been a growing relationship. He spent his childhood in South Florida, where his parents raised racehorses.

He started gardening at 10 and got his first copy of Organic Gardening magazine in 1975.

A two-time UF alumnus, he got a bachelor's and master's degree in horticulture in the 1980s.

Now, he and his wife, Trace Giornelli, run the Possum Hollow Farm, 15 miles north of Gainesville, near Alachua.

"I know the vegetables," said Durando, who is in his 50s. "It's my passion."

He said they've owned the farm for about 20 years and sold at the farmers market for 15 years. They also sell to several Gainesville restaurants.

Civilization, a downtown co-op restaurant that serves ethnic cuisine, offers lunch and dinner specials that feature Possum Hollow Farm fare.

John Prosser, a managing member who chooses the restaurant's produce, said Durando's vegetables and herbs find their way into a cornucopia of vegetarian dishes such as pumpkin lasagna.

"I like the idea of supporting someone who lives here who I know here," Prosser said. "They live here. They're raising families here. They're spending money here."

He said he likes to spread out his business to several local farmers, but he said he'll be back to Durando for more ingredients once the salad greens start rolling in.

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"Every year is a learning curve," Durando said.

He said he loves coming to the farmers market because of the vibrant atmosphere, great people and, of course, the local beer.

Jenn Bennett pushed a stroller up to Durando's stand. Her 18-month-old son, Atticus, looked up with a blue pacifier in his mouth.

"He's starting to look like you," Durando said to Bennett as they caught up on old times.

Bennett said she's known Durando for 12 years and has been buying vegetables and herbs from his stand for five years.

She left with Asian eggplants.

"It's just such a great way to end the day," said Bennett, who works as an art teacher at the Professional Academies Magnet at Loften High School. "The vegetables that he has this season are very nice. I can't wait for fall, though."

The vegetables and herbs Durando will start to sell in about a month are a knockout, he said.

He has three or four types of arugula and rapini - more types than some people know exist.

He'll have San Marzano tomatoes, the Cadillac of tomatoes.

"Until you've actually experienced it, there's no way to really talk about it," he said.

At home, his field is his pantry. He makes curry dishes with Asian eggplants and a cold bean salad inspired from a restaurant dish he particularly liked.

To him, farming is about more than food. It's about sustainability.

"In this day and age, from the global point of view from global health, how we feed our self is very important," he said.

The Union Street Farmers Market is held every Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Bo Diddley Community Plaza downtown.

 

Joe Durando, a two-time UF alumnus, runs the Possum Hollow Farm, located 15 miles north of Gainesville. His produce will be for sale at the Union Street Farmers Market on Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m.

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