Submitted Macon County resident Tyler Jenkins, at 17, is perhaps the youngest vendor at the Lafayette Farmer's Market, and sells a variety of produce to attendees.

Submitted

Macon County resident Tyler Jenkins, at 17, is perhaps the youngest vendor at the Lafayette Farmer's Market, and sells a variety of produce to attendees.

When a majority of the county's tobacco contracts ended last year, 3J Farms (now a cattle farm) was among those caught in the crossfire.

However, that industry shift opened up new opportunities for 17-year-old home-schooled student Tyler Jenkins, who started selling at the Lafayette Farmers Market that summer and became its youngest merchant.

"We started last year with sweet corn,"

Jenkins said, noting that he works with his father, Tony, on the project. "This year we added several other crops, like tomatoes, squash, peppers and watermelons."

The two had to get an early start after adding new crops, and they began planting in April for this year's market. 3J Farms sets up shop from 8:30 a.m. until noon from Monday through Saturday.

"(Selling at the market) is a real fun experience, getting to meet people and make friends," Jenkins said. "People will come in from places like Portland and Mt. Juliet, and sometimes, the same ones will start coming back every week, so you get to know them and become friends."

Once a week, Jenkins also sets up shop at the Batch & Bushel Farmer's Market in Lebanon, which allows him to see even more new faces.

"I've been working on the farm since I was 8, and I plan on farming after high school," Jenkins said. "The Farmer's Market has taught me a lot. We'll start about the end of May and run through October, but June, July and August are the busiest months."

Tomatoes and sweet corn are the most successful crops that Jenkins sells at the market, and that income supplements the farm's main focus area, cattle.

"(When the tobacco contract ended), it was kind of heartbreaking, because that was our main cash crop," Jenkins said. "So when tobacco went out, we went and bought a few more cows and just kind of got bigger. It's good to know you can branch out."

Cattle had a presence at 3J Farms even before they became the flagship product, and Jenkins has several memories of working with them. His affinity for cows led him to begin showing them once he joined Macon County 4-H.

"I'd wanted to show them since I was a little kid," Jenkins said. "It's a lot of work and involves walking, washing and grooming them. We've been to Nebraska, Wisconsin and all over the place for cattle shows."

Jenkins' proudest accomplishment as a cattle showman so far was winning the Reserve 1 Senior Level II championship at the state's 2018 beef expo.

"It was a really good feeling to know that all my hard work paid off," Jenkins said. "My favorite thing (about being involved with agriculture) is just all the opportunities I have to meet new people, at the show or the market."