By Peter Fischetti
Maverick is his name. Farming is his game.
At 6 years old, he’s shorter than some of the vegetable plants blooming in the garden behind his home in Panama City Beach. But it doesn’t matter because Maverick Gresham is continuing a family tradition begun by his great grandfather, who shared with neighbors the produce from a half-acre vegetable farm in Norcoss GA.
The difference is that Maverick has started a business that someday might finance a trip to Disneyland. He has a little ways to go, with only $23 in profit, which might buy an order of fries in the California park. But that’s OK. Once the big red tomatoes and melons are ripe, customers will be lining up at the front door. At least that’s the plan.
Maverick’s parents, Amanda and Jason, chose that name after watching a Jay Leno interview with a little boy named Maverick. “He was full of personality,” Amanda explained, and wouldn’t it be nice to have a son like that? They were also inspired by Maverick (Tom Cruise) in “Top Gun.”
When the Greshams moved to Panama City Beach from Monroe GA two years ago, Maverick helped his father, who is a contractor and also is in the Army Reserves, to build a vegetable garden. “We had chicken coops (in Georgia), but nothing would grow in the garden,” Amanda said.
It’s a little different on the beach, where Maverick’s garden includes a variety of tomato plants, cucumbers, brussels sprouts, green beans, lettuce and two kinds of melon. Most of the produce has yet to ripen, but already Maverick could get lost in the garden. He’s already thinking ahead to next year, when he plans to add squash. And if he gets really ambitious, he’d like to try corn.
Looking even further ahead, not surprisingly he wants to be a gardener when he grows up. It would be a one-man enterprise, he said, unless his 10-month-old brother, Memphis, decides to join him. (Memphis, unfortunately, was not available for an interview on this subject.) His other sibling, Caroline, 3, is definitely out of the picture since she’s planning to open a lemonade stand once the Greshams’ citrus trees start producing.
Maverick charges $5 for a plate that includes two red tomatoes, a large cucumber and a dozen cherry tomatoes, all washed and ready to eat. More will be added as they ripen. While Disneyland is in the future, right now he’s spending profits on ziplock bags for the cherry tomatoes.
Amanda works part-time as a wedding photographer with Beach Beginnings and is a volunteer breastfeeding counselor with Breastfeeding USA. Her career goal is to become an internationally board-certified lactation consultant.
After a year of preschool learning at home, Maverick will enter the first grade at A. Gary Walsingham Academy, which opens its doors in August near the new Panama City Beach Sports Complex. The past year has been a tough one for his mom, with a new baby and taking care of Caroline while completing online courses with Maverick. “It’s one of the reasons we started the gardening,” she said, to keep him outdoors and away from the computer.
Maverick isn’t crazy about attending school, particularly with plants growing at home. And he just got a call from a woman who wants to bring her grandson over to tour the garden. But he does like to talk about his girlfriend, Evelyn. He expects to marry her, and has even shown her a picture of a ring he chose from a Kay Jewelers catalogue.
And his mother wondered whether he’d be “full of personality” like the Maverick that Jay Leno interviewed!
To order produce, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peter Fischetti is a retired journalist from Southern California, which he hopes you won’t hold against him. He lives in Panama City Beach.