Hope Storie walks past a row of corn while giving a tour of her family’s small farm on Friday. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Hope Storie walks past a row of corn while giving a tour of her family’s small farm on Friday. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Hope Storie walked barefoot from her deck guiding a tour Friday afternoon through her family's garden plot that is ripe with heirloom tomatoes, green beans and beets.

Hours earlier, Hope and her brother Tristan were hunched over picking green beans, which they stored in large totes before selling the produce at the downtown farmers market.

"I like being out in the soil. I'm not a girlie girl," she joked.

At 16, Hope is already a seasoned gardener who has earned grand champion marks at the Jefferson County 4-H Fair and several blue and merit ribbons for her produce at the Indiana State Fair.

She also recently received the Top Green Leaf 4-H Garden Award, an honor that was given to each county 4-H grand champion garden winner across the state for the first time this year. She received a plaque and $25 gift card and is eligible for the Green Leaf regional award, which has yet to be announced.

Hope and her family started a table at the local downtown farmers market four years ago. The event works with Hope's busy schedule and allows her to have a summer job. In addition to being involved in Jefferson County 4-H and attending Madison Consolidated High School, Hope is a member of the school's soccer and basketball teams.

"So, we did gardens, because I could work on it when school's out," she said. "It just fit around my schedule a lot better."

The garden has been a true family collaboration.

Hope takes notes from her parents - David and Dolly - an uncle who is an expert on tomatoes and her grandfather who is a farmer and expert on soil. Hope said her grandfather, who owns the field surrounding the family's U.S. 421 home, helps his grandkids with the machinery and has encouraged them to expand the garden every year.

The plot grows every year with new varieties and sometimes more rows, depending on what the demand has been at the farmers market. The garden is split into two sections - a variety of tomatoes dominate one part, while corn, green beans and beets take up much of the real estate on the other portion.

The garden has had hits and misses over the years, but this year's harvest has been plentiful.

"Our root crops did really well this year, so we're probably going to plant more of them," Hope said, adding that beets, radishes and turnips have been this year's top seller at the farmers market. "We'd sit them on the table and they'd be gone."

Hope still has two more years of high school before she graduates, but with already a well-developed knowledge and comfort in the garden, it's likely she'll pursue a career in agriculture - or at least a garden plot of her own one day.

"When I get older - if I don't get into the business of farming - I'm definitely going to have my own garden," she said. "Because I like knowing where my food comes from and what was used."