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Elmer Moje, 99-Year-Old Farmer, Has Sold At Local Market Since 1918

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Elmer Moje turns 99 years old on Monday. And for most of those years -- save when he was serving in the Army in World War II -- he has been carting homegrown fruits and vegetables to the same local farmers market in North Tonawanda, N.Y., a city between Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

In 1918, Moje, then 5, started accompanying his father to the market to sell produce grown on their 86-acre farm, along with the butter Moje said he used to churned himself.

"It was a very small market, but everything was different then," Moje told The Huffington Post by phone. "We went with horse and wagon. They had a big building there with a meat market, and at the end of the building was a watering trough for the horses."

Horses weren't the only animals.

"We used to sell live chickens there," Moje said. "You'd see people walking down the street with a live chicken under their arms."

Today, he estimates the North Tonawanda farmers market has around 100 stalls where vendors sell goods ranging from vegetables to cheese to sunglasses and Tupperware (none are pushing live chickens, though). Moje isn't a fan of the nonfood items, since shoppers may spend less on what he's there to sell, which these days is one item only: garlic.

"It's easier to grow, it's less work, and it sells better," he said. "Everybody goes for that homegrown garlic."

Recently, Moje said, he sold $350 worth of garlic in a single day. His product sells so well, he thinks, because he grows it nearby, whereas much of the garlic in local grocery stores comes from China.

Growing garlic -- and farming in general -- has mainly been a hobby for Moje. For decades, he worked in a factory that made grinding wheels. The years he wasn't at the plant, he was serving in Italy and North Africa during World War II.

While overseas, Moje said, he felt lonely and an Army buddy mentioned his fiancée had an available friend. The friend, who was named Esther, started writing to Moje not long after. The two began a back-and-forth, although no pictures were exchanged. Still, Moje knew he was very interested.

"When I got home out of the Army, when I was discharged, when I got to the Buffalo airport, I called [her] to make a date for the next night and that was it," Moje said.

As a wedding present, Moje's father gave him two acres of land. In the years that followed, he built several greenhouses. He spent more time tending to them after he retired from the factory in 1977.

As he has grown older, Moje has gradually been scaling back -- he sold the last of the greenhouses two years ago -- but he still drives his station wagon to the market with baskets full of garlic every Tuesday and Saturday.

"I used to go three days a week, but now that I got older, I cut it down to two," he said. "I go until the garlic's gone. Then I rest."

He has no plans to stop anytime soon. In a recent profile in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's blog, he said he stayed young inheriting good genes, drinking three glasses of milk a day, and eschewing coffee and cigarettes. He noted that a woman at the market carded him one day, believing that he couldn't be more than 70.

Growing and selling garlic, too, seems to help.

"I feel pretty good, and long as I can do it, it's better than sitting around doing nothing," Moje said. "If I'd sat around and done nothing after I retired 30-some years ago, I'd have been in the cemetery long ago."

h/t: USDA Blog

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