George Gilbert Ganjon, a retired Carroll County farmer who was a founder of the Downtown Farmers Market, died of kidney failure Aug. 1 at Dove House in Westminster. He was 82.
Born in Baltimore, he grew up near the Hollins Market in the southwestern section of the city. He was a 1947 Catonsville High School graduate.
He met his future wife, Alvina "Sis" Jackson, at the Cross Street Market in South Baltimore, where she, her parents and brothers ran produce and flower stalls. They met the day after each had graduated from high school. He was working for a German butcher. They were married 56 years.
He enlisted in the Air Force and became a flier while attending Officers Training School. In his two decades of service, he flew DC-9 hospital planes and C-141 cargo and transport planes during the Vietnam War. He carried supplies into Vietnam and took the wounded back to Hawaii. He also worked in the Titan Missile program before retiring as a major in 1970. He earned a Bronze Star.
After his military service, he returned to his wife's 109-acre Carroll County farm on Alesia Road in Millers. Family members said he adapted to farm life and was soon operating a tractor, cultivator and bailer. He helped operate the produce business, A.E. Jackson & Sons, with his wife at the Cross Street Market for many years. He wore a cap with the Jackson name and became known to customers as Mr. Jackson.
Mrs. Ganjon said her husband was also a "general go-fer" and handled practical duties of selling. She also said her husband bonded with his customers. "He loved to talk. He had a story for everyone and a story about everything," she said.
He and his wife farmed in the first part of the week and spent Fridays and Saturdays at Cross Street, where they established a large customer base.
"We were one of the first who sold flowers we raised," said Mrs. Ganjon. "We sold simple flowers that were cut fresh and long lasting. We had lilies, marigolds, zinnias, statice and lilac."
She said Baltimore Magazine once rated Jackson Farms' greens, the kale and collard greens, to be the finest in Baltimore. She said their lemon cucumbers were also popular.
In 1977, Mr. Ganjon and his wife decided to sell at a then-new venture, the Downtown Farmers Market on Market Place, which faced the old wholesale Fish Market in a spot known today as Power Plant Live.
"George was part of the original group downtown," said Joseph Bartenfelder, a fellow farmer and stall operator who is a former Baltimore County councilman. "Their customers did not come for just vegetables and flowers. They came to see Sis and George. George had a big following. He was a friendly fellow and after he retired, people came to me and asked about him."
In December 2007, the Ganjons decided to retire. They set up at the downtown market, which by then had moved under the Jones Falls Expressway, for the last time a few days before Christmas.
"The final day was tinged with sadness for Sis and George Ganjon, whose family-owned Jackson Farms of Millers has sold vegetables, bedding plants and herbs at the market for the past 30 years," a Baltimore Sun story said. "The Ganjons, both 78, regretfully told customers their diabetes might force them to stay home in Carroll County on market days next year."
The article quoted Mrs. Ganjon as saying, "It gets harder every day."
Over the years, Mr. Ganjon also participated in Owings Mills New Town Market, the Downtown Westminster Market and Prince George's Plaza Market. He was also market master of the Pimlico Farmers Market for many years.
In 1990, then-Baltimore City Council President Mary Pat Clarke joined council members Joseph DiBlasi, Timothy Murphy and Edward Reisinger in congratulating Mr. Ganjon for "20 years of dedicated service to the patrons of the Cross Street Market."
Mr. Ganjon enjoyed reading about history and aeronautics. He was also a train enthusiast.
Services were held Friday in Hampstead.
Surviving, in addition to his wife, are a daughter, Sara G. Dickmyer of Westminster; a brother, Erich A. "Bud" Ganjon of Westminster; and two granddaughters.