SLOCOMB — In the weeks leading up to opening day, Rhonda Hendrix worried about customers returning to the market for her family’s produce. Would the building be complete enough in time to open? Could old and new customers spot their new location? Would Google find the new site when people searched for it?
When opening day arrived, however, her worries were allayed.
Hendrix Farm Produce as well as White’s Produce, located just up the road, had to vacate their longtime seasonal produce stores on State Highway 52 as the Alabama Department of Transportation purchased property for a construction project. widening of the motorway to create four lanes from Slocomb to Malvern. .
For the two Slocomb families, not reopening was not a good option. Agriculture is in their blood.
Despite the challenges at the start of the summer produce season, Hendrix Farm Produce began welcoming customers to the new market last weekend. White’s Produce plans to open Saturday.
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Hendrix Farm Produce would normally have opened in mid-May for a produce selling season that typically ends in late summer.
“We almost made it; I was hoping for a little earlier,” Rhonda Hendrix said. “It cost us two weeks.
Hendrix Farm Produce has moved across the freeway from the original building, which is visible from the new market at 19009 State Highway 52. The metal building is approximately 900 square feet larger than the old building, extra space which will come in handy when they start harvesting their Slocomb grown tomatoes over the next two weeks.
“No doubt it will be full as soon as our tomatoes arrive,” Hendrix said. “It probably won’t be big enough.”
For now, the market — open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. — offers Ruskin, Florida, tomatoes as well as squash, zucchini, onions, new potatoes, peas, cucumbers, butter beans, sweet corn and Chilton County peaches. Later they will have cantaloupes and watermelons.
Business was steady in the first week.
“It’s wonderful to see the familiar faces and the fact that they’ve found where we are,” Hendrix said.
Located less than a mile up the road towards Slocomb, White’s Produce is now housed in a metal building built directly behind their old farm stand – a building Gerid and Amy White had been selling produce from for 10 years. It was originally built in the 1980s and changed owners several times before white people bought the building. When complete, the new freeway right-of-way will stop at the very front of the old White’s Produce building, which ALDOT has agreed to demolish for the Whites.
Known for its tomatoes, White’s Produce will begin its first harvest this week in time for Saturday. In addition to early tomatoes, they will have corn, peas, peppers and other produce grown on the family farm.
“There were a lot of late nights; it was a lot of hard work, but it kind of became part of who are,” Gerid White said of the product store. “…It’s been a home away from home.”
White’s Produce typically ends its season around the July 4 holiday after the watermelons caused a stir with customers. The store, located at 18047 E. State Highway 52, is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Gerid White, who also works as a college principal, grew up in a farming family and even worked with the Hendrix family when he was young. For 18 years, he has been growing tomatoes on the family farm about five miles from White’s Produce Market. He hopes to pass on his passion for farming to his own children – his 4-year-old daughter, Emmaline, and his 7-month-old son, Silas. Although it was hard work, White said farming had become something he simply couldn’t give up, even though his parents encouraged him to go to college.
“It taught me a great work ethic growing up,” White said. “It taught me to appreciate the air conditioner. It taught me to appreciate the value of hard work. I want this to be instilled in my children. I don’t want them to have a hard life their whole life…but for them coming to college and having a job they can work on to earn some money, I hope to inspire them that our farm is more just a simple earth. I want them to see it as a way of life.
Peggy Ussery is a staff writer for Dothan Eagle and can be reached at [email protected] or 334-712-7963. Support his work and that of other Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at dothaneagle.com.