Retirement is meant to allow people who have worked for decades to relax, but Bob Chambers has not stopped working.
Chambers, 65, drove semitrailers for 25 years before retiring about eight years ago. Now, he grows tomatoes.
“I’m working harder now than I ever did,” Chambers said.
Chambers lives in Grove but owns and operates a small farm in rural Jay. He chose farming because his father made a living buying and selling produce when Chambers was growing up, so he wanted to try it.
He uses about seven of his 20 acres to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables, including okra, yellow squash, banana peppers and green zucchini, but his largest crop is tomatoes.
“Everyone in Grove wants homegrown tomatoes,” Chambers said.
Chambers sells his produce every summer under a red and white tent across from the Grove Regional Airport.
He sells 300 to 400 pounds of tomatoes every day from the stand. His sister, Sharon Wood, and brother-in-law, Gordon Wood, come almost every summer from Independence, Missouri, to help.
Chambers’ tomatoes come in a variety of sizes, which he said gives people the option of buying larger tomatoes to slice or smaller tomatoes to cook.
He also sells tomatoes to feed stores, peddlers and local restaurants.
“When they buy my tomatoes, they know it’s the real deal,” Chambers said. “They know they’re not gettin’ no shipped-in tomatoes.”
He works tirelessly to ensure a steady harvest of tomatoes, staggering about eight tomato plots on his land.
But the recent flooding almost got the best of him.
“There ain’t nothin’ like a Mother Nature rain,” Chambers said. “Plantin’ on slopes saved me this year.”
He said farming tomatoes is a seven-day workweek, so he has one hired hand, Steve Hughes, to help him on the farm. Chambers said his wife, Bonnie Chambers, died about a year and a half ago.
“I miss her a lot,” Chambers said. “She helped me a lot.”
Chambers said he plans to open his stand for another summer on Thursday, June 29.