STACYVILLE | Just 2 miles west of Stacyville on Kirkwood Avenue, sits Alex’s Produce.
Owned and operated by 11-year-old Alex Lenz, a sixth grader at St. Ansgar Middle School.
For the past four years, Alex has grown and sold pumpkins, gourds, tomatoes, green peppers, jalapeno peppers, cucumbers, squash and a variety of other vegetables.
“It started as something to do after school,” Alex said. “I really didn’t have anything to do to fill my time.”
What started as a way to spend time constructively, has grown into a labor of love and devotion. Alex spends his afternoons with his garden, from the tilling and planting, to the harvesting, washing and selling of the produce.
He is a hands-on producer.
“He tried sports,” said Dave Lenz, Alex’s father, “but he wasn’t really interest in any of them. We suggested he try gardening. He liked it and enjoyed it.”
So much so that with each year, Alex’s garden has grown and as he learns what his customers purchase and what doesn’t sell so well, he has adjusted his crops accordingly.
Now, sales are three to four times what they were his first year. Each year, he’s managed to double his sales.
The increase has allowed him to purchase a tractor with his own funds, which he uses to help with cultivating and hauling from his garden.
“We mostly plant different things,” Alex said, “but if it sells good then we replant it, and if it doesn’t, then we try something different.”
In order to make the garden a success, Alex begins working in May, with planting, continuing through June in order to get everything planted.
“We help him with getting things planted since it’s gotten to be so big, but we don’t do anything in the garden unless he is helping. He has to be out there too, and he works very hard,” said Alex’s mother, LeAnne Lenz.
With lots of repeat customers and a steadily growing business, Alex helped his father build the stand and paint it, he also helped build the shed beside his garden patch and the washing table where the vegetables are cleaned before being brought up to the stand.
A great deal of work goes into the weeding of the garden, from hoeing to using the tractor to help keep the patches free of weeds, and Alex is dedicated to seeing the garden continue to flourish.
In addition, Alex donates 10 percent of the proceeds from his produce stand to the Hormel Institute for Cancer Research and has his name is on their donor wall. After presenting them with a check in January, he went on a tour of the facility. He was presented with brochures detailing how eating vegetables helps prevent cancer.
Alex began donating, after he noticed some visitors to his stand gave him extra. They were so nice that Alex and his folks thought it would be a good thing to pay it forward and donate to charity.
After his mother presented him with a few options for charitable contributions, Alex choose the Hormel Institute, to which he plans to donate again this year and in years to come.
“Everyone knows someone who’s been affected by cancer, we sure do,” Dave said.
“The cherry tomatoes are my favorite,” said Alex. “Even if I sometimes have to hunt for them.”