Over in produce

October 28, 2007

Here's to a life well-lived. Lewis Pearce Sr. turned to growing herbs and then vegetables after losing his job as a plasterer during the Depression, and in doing so he found enough fulfillment and satisfaction to keep him going to the age of 107. He died Oct. 20, at home, in the stone house he built in 1932 in Glen Arm because he had nothing better to do. The family farm outlasts him.

"Fresh air, fresh vegetables." When Lewis Pearce Jr., who is 83 and runs the farm today with his son, grandson and nephew, says that was the secret to his father's longevity, you imagine there must have been something more. A serenity, born of an old-fashioned self-reliance, may have helped.

"He could make anything do or work - and produce," Mr. Pearce says. Once - during those tough years of the Depression, when men walked up and down Harford Road all day, tramping north and south and always stopping at the Pearces' to ask for something to eat, and never getting turned down - a customer had no money to pay a bill. He gave Mr. Pearce a 30-something-foot boat called the Thelma. Mr. Pearce hooked up its one-cylinder engine to a saw and proceeded to cut the Thelma up for firewood. He was glad to have it.

The Pearces used to sell to the venerable old restaurants of Baltimore, and now they mostly deal with upscale supermarkets. "There's been very little change," says the younger Mr. Pearce, "except in the methods - and the customers."

A century and more of nothing and everything changing. The day after Lewis Pearce Sr. was born, in 1900, The Sun railed against politicians who thought the U.S. had a God-given mission to defeat the insurgents and bring democracy to - the Philippines. The railroads were still reeling from the credit collapse of the previous year. Maryland peach farmers worried about damage to their trees from an ice storm. A farmer in Knoebel, next door to Glen Arm, was reported to have slaughtered a 603-pound pig with help from five other men and a horse.

"Fresh air, fresh vegetables." An enviable man was lucky to get them - then as now.

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