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Produce stand begins new season

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Bradley Rook selects a handful of fruit Friday while shopping at Farmer's Produce on Sutters Creek Boulevard.

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A longtime street-side fruits and vegetables vendor is back again for 2019, with his location being just off the intersection of North Wesleyan and Sutters Creek boulevards.

Elma Farmer, 81, owns and operates Farmer’s Produce.

Farmer has been setting up in the Rocky Mount area every warm-weather season for a quarter of a century, most of those years in the former Kmart parking lot.

"I might retire when I get a hundred," Farmer said with a smile and a laugh.

As is Farmer's procedure, he does business under a large white tent.

Farmer spoke about what he believes has been the key to his success with the produce stand.

"I like to make people happy. When I see people go out of that gate and I know they got something good, that makes my day," he said.

He estimates he sells approximately 2,000 pounds of tomatoes a week.

Additionally, he sells apples, blueberries, cabbage, corn, cucumbers, green beans, green peppers, oranges, peaches, peas and plums — and he noted his peaches are from South Carolina.

He also sells red mangoes, red potatoes, spring onions, squash, strawberries, seeded watermelons, seedless watermelons, Vidalia onions, yellow mangoes and zucchini.

He also was quick to show he sells country ham and ham hocks.

As for why he works as a produce vendor, Farmer said, "To have something to do and enjoy it."

And as for why he enjoys his line of work, Farmer said, "Because I talk to my customers and all and see how they're doing, how they're getting along. We talk about everything."

He is from the Sharpsburg area and he has held many jobs throughout his life.

They include having been a cattleman, a home builder, a hog farmer, a restaurateur, a sweet potato farmer, a supermarket operator, a tobacco farmer and a tobacco warehouse operator.

"I kind of got to where my eyesight had failed me — and I just wanted something to do," he said.

He also said what sparked his interest in the produce business was when a friend one day gave him a bunch of peaches.

He said he recalled saying to himself, “I'll never eat all of these peaches” and deciding to successfully sell them from his vehicle while parked on the side of U.S. 301.

He has arthritis in his back right now and uses a scooter chair to help him move about, "but I mean, I get around and I feel good."

Kezmit Howard, 27, said she has been going to the produce stand since she was 12 or 13 years old.

Howard, with Farmer close by, said she did not know him, but she said she was aware of him being at the business whenever she stopped by. 

"Oh, you're the owner," she said to Farmer. "I didn't know that. Well, it's nice to meet you."

She served in the Navy from 2009-13 and was an operations specialist. She presently has an after-school program and a day care center.

She also noted the business being at the same site every year.

"And they are a trusted name," she said.

Joe Evans, 58, of Whitakers and a retired Rocky Mount city employee, purchased a watermelon.

Evans said he stops by the produce stand every now and then.

"He's pretty good," Evans said of his dealings with Farmer. "I don't mind helping anybody out — and they help me out with sweet watermelons."

The business is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Farmer said he usually closes for the season a week after Labor Day.

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