Small stands, large impact

by | Aug 3, 2020

National Farmers’ Market Week takes place Aug. 2-8, 2020.  Farmers’ markets across North Carolina offer communities access to fresh, nutritious food, while also stimulating local economies. National Farmers’ Market Week is a time to celebrate those who produce fresh foods in our state. Whether you visit a roadside stand or the State Farmers’ Market, take time this week to support local growers while receiving fresh food in return.

For the people of rural communities, like those in Sampson County, roadside stands offer fresh foods when farmers’ markets are not as readily available. While hogs seem to be what Sampson County is known for, produce can be found in abundance when driving across the county during the summer. To celebrate National Farmers’ Market Week we’re going to take a trip down US-701 South, checking out three family-operated stands along the way. No matter the size of the stand, NC-grown foods are always a great option!

Our first stop is just south of Newton Grove, where Josh Hudson and his family have been operating a produce stand for 15 years. The stand, which is operated solely by family members, offers a variety of produce, including watermelons and cantaloupe, sweet corn, peppers, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, and pickles.

The Hudsons initially set up their stand to “reach the local customer demand for fresh market fruits and vegetables and serve [their] community.” Since then, they have made it their mission to strengthen their community by encouraging local prosperity and “teaching children the art of farming.”

Josh said, “It is a great feeling [to serve the community] and we very much enjoy what we do every day. When food is produced, processed, distributed, and sold all within the same community, more money stays in the local economy.“

The next stop takes us to Clinton, the county seat. The Brock family operates a stand there, selling tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, squash, eggplant, okra, corn, and pumpkins. The Brocks have been farming and selling produce in Sampson County for over 30 years. Just across from Big Blue Store, the Brocks are set up Wednesday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m.

Joey and Christy Brock, along with their two sons, find great joy in knowing their produce is enjoyed by many, some coming as far as Virginia to buy tomatoes and cucumbers.

“We live in a rural area with neighbors we have known our whole life.  To support local is to support family. Many of our customers freeze and can our vegetables to eat all year.”

In addition to produce, Joey is a leather tradesman, hand-making leather goods just as his father did before him.

The last stop on our roadside stand journey is AJ Family Farm in Garland. The Johnson family began their venture in 2014 by selling pasture-raised pork, adding produce, beef, and chicken over the years. Along with their stand, the Johnsons have an online market, shipping their All Natural Pasture Raised Premium Pork Cuts and Beef across the continental United States.

Monday-Saturday, the AJ Family Farm Market serves customers from Sampson, Bladen and Duplin counties, in addition to travelers headed to the beach. Like the others, the Johnsons are extremely grateful for the community’s support of their small business, especially during the pandemic.

“While many saw some uncertainty about what would be available on the shelves at supermarkets, our supply lines were unwavering and our community took notice. We have been able to provide pork, beef and chicken when many were having a hard time finding it or were unable to get it. We were also able to grow and bring fresh produce to help provide a well-balanced meal for people living in our community that were ultimately not able to leave the community. In doing that we are also able to educate about how farms work, where food ultimately comes from, and what it takes to support farmers to ensure they can continue to produce in the coming years. We believe it is of the utmost importance to now, more than ever, continue to provide fresh locally grown food to our community.”

Be sure to stop by your local markets and roadside stands this week in celebration of National Farmers’ Market Week!