Local 92-year-old gardener grows square watermelon
For the past nine years, Norm Geolat has managed the Swansea Farmers Market.
But now at 92, he’s stepping down from the volunteer post, and Swansea leaders are looking for a new manager and other volunteers in order to keep the market open.
If a new manager isn’t found, there is a “really good chance” that the market will not open this year, said Swansea Village Board Member Brian Wells.
“If we are to continue, we need volunteers,” Wells wrote in an article for the village’s newsletter.
The market has been open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, beginning with the first Thursday in May and running through October in front of the Rural King at 2801 N. Illinois St.
Wells said a new manager could change the date or hours for the market. Also, he said current volunteers can assist the new volunteers.
The market manager negotiates with vendors and oversees the market to make sure vendors abide by the rules and regulations. Other available positions include treasurer and secretary.
If you are interested in volunteering, you can contact Wells at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before Geolat ran the Swansea market, he was the market master for the Belleville farmers market for nine years, giving him a total of 18 years as a market manager in the metro-east.
“I feel it’s time for me to turn a leaf, or a page,” Geolat said. “Turn it over and start with new blood.”
Geolat, who will soon turn 93, said new volunteers would bring “new ideas, enthusiasm, all kind of new things.”
“And that’s true for many businesses … many businesses need new blood,” he said.
Wells praised Geolat for his dedication to the Swansea market.
“Without Norm Geolat, it is doubtful Swansea would have had a market,” Wells wrote in his newsletter article. “His expertise and hundreds of volunteer hours of service for Swansea will be greatly missed.”
Wells said Geolat assisted in bringing in vendors and customers and always thought of ways to improve the market.
A time to teach
As far as his future, Geolat said he is ready to try something new after serving as a market master for nearly two decades.
“I’d like to maybe have a new career. At 93, am I too old to start a new career?”
“I wouldn’t mind teaching life. I think it would be interesting for me to start sharing my life with other folks. And I love to talk to people, you found that out already,” he said in an interview.
One thing Geolat plans to do for sure is to keep his large garden at his home, where his bounty includes blackberries and apple trees.
Last summer, he got creative with what he calls a “square watermelon.”
He puts a small melon inside a square, clear plastic cage and as the melon grows, it presses up against the side of the cage to mold into a square. The bottom of the cage has a hole for the stem of the watermelon plant.
It’s hard to grow the melon because if you leave it in the cage too long, the melon can rot, Geolat said.
For Geolat, gardening has been part of the fabric of his life. He was born on a 10-acre truck farm operated by his father in Belleville.
“I think I would Iike to die in a garden,” he said with a laugh.