Andy Epple, Market Gardener

A picture of the The Greeley Sunday Journal July 24, 1949

Originally published in the Greeley Sunday Journal on July 24, 1949.
Courtesy of the City of Greeley Museums

Name Your Poison! 10 to 1 Andy’s Got It

A man once thought he had Andy Epple stopped “I’ll bet I know one thing you don’t raise. Horseradish!” But that one was almost too easy for a man who raises ornamental gourds, chili peppers, eggplant, okra, King Tut squash, dill and grape leaves besides all the usual garden varieties.

Andy has divided his 55 acres among some 40 different kinds of vegetables, and his greenhouse plots among many more types of flowers and plants, since he started at this “dugout” 43 years ago.

It has helped to keep customers, because people like to go where they are pretty sure of finding just what they want. It has also helped Andy to keep from ever having a losing year: if he has bad luck on sweet potatoes or honeydew melon, chances are the corn or tomatoes or beans will make it up for him.

He not only sells in variety, he sells in quantity. In the spring, Andy is busy with his flower and vegetable plants. He raises enough to plant (and sometimes replant) his own land, and he sells literally millions to customers in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska.

This week, his truck garden business began, just a little later than usual. This is the main part of his profitable business. In an average year, he will sell 1,000 bushels of tomatoes, 400 bushels of peppers, 4,000 bushels of corn, 3,500 bushels of carrots, and thousands of bushels of other crops. People buy everything he can grow and ask for more.

Andy Epple takes it all in his stride. He may be up from 5 in the morning till 11 at night, but he never appears hurried and always has time to jolly his customers. With his bags and bushels of vegetables, he passes out advice on how to plant, how to fertilize, how to get rid of disease and bugs.

Once in a while a mischievous streak in his nature gets the better of him. A lady who had bought some tomato plants from him, planted them, and awakened one morning to find them all neatly snipped off at the ground called to ask Epple what was the matter. “Sounds like cutworms,” he said.

“Well, how can I get rid of them?”

“Oh, you just go along, and put all the cutworms in a can. Then lay them out on a block of wood and smash them,” Andy said.

In other moods, he will say, when asked where he is going or where he has been: “Oh, over here at Pete’s, next door to Mike, you know, near Pat’s.” At the table, he presses food on guests with “Here, help yourself. Take a lot. Take darn near all of it.” Or if the conversation lags, Andy can always spin tall tells about the grasshoppers he’s seen – so big they ate the handles off the pitchforks.

Hoosier Andy Epple was born in Indiana and spent his boyhood there. As a young man he went to Owensboro, Kentucky, and worked there on a truck farm for a couple years. In 1906 he came to Greeley. He had a friend here, G.J. Haffendorfer, who put him to work topping onions out on east 18th Street.

The first fall he was here, there was a terrific snowstorm – Andy says he thinks it was worse than any he’s seen here since. It snowed 35 inches in four days, and he “beat it out of here.” But the next summer, he was back and he’s been here, except for short visits away, ever since.

He and Frank Young went into partnership on the market garden in 1908 – Frank furnishing the money, and Andy the work, the profits split 50-50. As near as Andy can recall, only one man in business in Greeley then is still doing the same work at the same place: J.M.B. Petrikin of First National Bank.

After 12 years of it Epple tired of working for somebody else and bought Young’s interest. He had 15 acres then, has added another 35 since bit by bit. He rents 15 acres from the C & S Railroad.

Although he had no advanced schooling, Epple had an enlightened was of treating his land from the start. One sign is that he has been able to raise almost anything he wanted – and at a profit. When he first came to Greeley, he was told he couldn’t raise pumpkins in corn. Everyone also told him they had tried without success to raise sweet potatoes. Epple has done both for forty years and made money at it.

Until the county fair was abandoned several years ago, Epple was a regular blue ribbon winner, sometimes walking off with as many as 15 first prizes.

In 1927, he and his market were given national publicity in an article in American magazine, written by Mrs. Mont J. Moses, who now lives at 1021 Cranford in Greeley. After it appeared, Andy says, he was swamped by tourists from all over the country who were going through Colorado and stopped by to see the Epple market.

In 1924, Epple married a girl he had grown up with in Indiana, and who had since been teaching school there. On one of the walks leading from their house, in the concrete, is set the date of Andy’s arrival here. The year Mrs. Epple arrived is inscribed in one of the concrete blocks in the other walk.

The Epples, who have no children, have lived a life busy with both work and play. Their success has come with long hours and sometimes downright hardship. Fortunately, they have liked the work they were doing and knew how to take advantage of its best points.

One of these is that they can usually manage a long vacation in late fall. Nearly every year, except during the war, the Epples have traveled for several weeks around Thanksgiving and Christmas – often back to Indiana, but to other places including the west coast.

They are also their own best customers. Mrs. Epple cans many kinds of fruits and vegetables, freezes others and buries things like carrots and turnips in the ground in front of the dugout. Andy says “green beans and kraut are his long suit,” and they eat those they grow the year round. Another family favorite is carrot juice, especially of the sweet Nantes carrot (which Epple was the first to frown in this area).

The Epples live in a comfortable white frame house across from the dugout. Three other houses on their property are rented by Glen Shupe, Delbert Thomas, and Albert Holms, who is one of the stead employees at the market.

Printed June 6, 1957, (courtesy of the City of Greeley Museums): Andy Epple, 78, died at the Weld County General hospital Wednesday night. He had been a patient at the hospital six days but had been in ill health for more than one year.

Epple was born in Huff, Ind., May 10, 1879. He came to Greeley in 1904 and conducted market gardening on a large scale since 1906.

He was nationally known for his skill in vegetable production and his fine qualities as a man.

Epple married Blanche Hoskins in Denver Feb. 7, 1924. He was a member of the First Christian church, of the Greeley Elks lodge and the Greeley lodge of Knights of Pythias.

Epple is survived by the widow; by a foster daughter, Mrs. Alice Holmes, and by a brother Martin Epple of Independence, Mo.

Did You Know?
In years past, the dugout was the scene of great watermelon feasts, when a table running the full length of the dugout would be laden with melons and all Andy’s friends and neighbors would pitch in.