The Goodman family in Lenoir City for some time has considered selling products at a farmers market, but never did they think it would become their sole source of income.
With COVID-19, Isaac Goodman had to take time off work to care for his family that includes 5-year-old Ezekiel Goodman, who was born with Rachischisis, a developmental birth defect.
“With Ezekiel’s condition, of course, we had to go on full lockdown and that means curbside pickup for groceries and washing them in the driveway-type thing,” Rebeca Goodman, Ezekiel’s mother, said. “Isaac has been out of work since March because it’s not safe. The circumstances are not safe for him to be out and about. ... We had to go on self-quarantine, so we had to make that choice, unfortunately, which was a very hard choice to make.”
Isaac has researched growing microgreens — vegetable greens harvested after the cotyledon leaves have developed — for about two years.
“We’ve always done a garden since we moved in,” Isaac said. “Actually since I was a kid I’ve had a garden. I guess just it’s something I enjoyed.”
The decision to set up IRIE Goodman Farm, a “homestead farmers market,” came around April, Rebeca said. Now they offer items such as broccoli, cabbage, chives, kale, fudge, eggs and bath salt.
In some ways, she found the planning a blessing.
“It’s strange to say that about a pandemic,” Rebeca said. “The pandemic isn’t the blessing but everything else that has happened has. We’ve been prepared for it. We already had gotten the seeds. We already had everything and the knowledge to do it. We had no idea that two years ago he would be using this for a living. It was just supposed to be, ‘Oh look, we got a little extra cash.’ ... We already had about 3,000 plants inside the house. We already had begun and we were going to do tomato plants and different stuff like that at the farmers markets.”
Now the effort has become a family initiative, including Ezekiel, who Rebeca said serves as family spokesperson.
“Issiah is our oldest son and he does everything with the chickens,” Rebeca said. “He tends to them, he cleans them, he feeds them, he always has. He does the fresh eggs. Isaac, he does the microgreens. He plants them and harvests them and babies them and everything else that they need. Then both of us do a little bit of the rest of it. I decorate the mini-scenes and we work on the tomatoes together and all four of us made the fudge.”
“We do everything as a family,” Isaac added.
Rebeca said community support has been “fantastic,” even with something as small as sharing the IRIE Goodman Farm Facebook page.
This isn’t the first time the community has shown support. In May 2019, several people provided the Goodmans a new van to help the family navigate tasks like doctor appointments in the Knoxville and Lenoir City area, along with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, for Ezekiel.
“We have been overly blessed to be able to do this,” Rebeca said. “We have been overly blessed to be able to have the know-how to do it and to be able to provide the money for ourselves, or the product for ourselves, and hopefully the money for ourselves here soon. We’re not above taking handouts, we’ve needed them before and people have turned out in droves to be able to able to help us out. But this is something we felt like we could do ourselves. It’s something we felt like it was important for us to try to do for ourselves, you know what I mean? When you have the know-how and the product, you just should.”
The pandemic has hit Ezekiel “hard,” Rebeca said. The Goodmans’ oldest son, Issiah, 17, is about to go to college.
“But he’s doing well,” Rebeca said of Ezekiel. “He enjoys being able to get out to come out here to the table from time to time and be able to safely see people, so that’s been really nice. He’s able to come out usually in the mornings and be able to kind of visit with everybody.”
IRIE Goodman Farm is open 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. For more information, email Rebeca at rebecagoodman16 @gmail.com. Contactless service can be provided.
Plans are to keep going for the foreseeable future, she said.
“Until a vaccine or whatever’s going to happen is going to happen,” Rebeca said. “Until Ezekiel can be safe to have Isaac to go back to work, then yeah, this is where we’re at.”