Joe Burton sees opportunity where others just see weeds

The Burton family, pictured here, have been running the Gypsy King fruit and vegetable stand in Chatham, Ont. for more than three decades. Joe and Nancy Burton run the business, started by Joe's dad Pat. They are helped by their children Sarah, 18, and Aron, 21. Photo taken Tuesday July 14, 2015. (Ellwood Shreve/Chatham Daily News/Postmedia Network)

Where most people see small, weed-filled sections of land, Joe Burton sees an opportunity to grow fresh produce.

The Chatham man, who runs the Gypsy King fruit and vegetable stand with his family that his dad, Pat Burton, started more than three decades ago, is an urban farmer.

He farms about 120 acres of land, including soybeans, but about 25 acres comes from land that would otherwise be vacant, behind area factories or along railway or hydro right-of-ways.

Some land Burton rents, while other land he uses for free in exchange for keeping the property looking neat and tidy.

“I just keep it clean by growing crops on it,” he said. “Everybody's happy.”

Despite rain pouring down at times on Tuesday the popular stand, located in the parking lot of Lenover's Quality Meats & Seafoods on Park Avenue East, was quite busy as several people stopped by to get fresh produce, especially sweet corn.

Nearby the stand is an area of crops growing beside the railroad tracks that cross Park Avenue East and Park Street. Not far away, in the opposite direction, a friend offered up about a quarter acre of land, near the entrance of Lynwood subdivision, that Burton uses to grow green and yellow beans.

Joe Burton says he has a lot going through his head trying to keep track of the various parcels of land where crops are planted.

The variety of vegetables he grows includes sweet corn, broccoli, tomatoes, green and yellow beans, cucumbers, squash, cauliflower, cabbage, radishes and red beets. He also grows his own strawberries.

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