Fresh and Ready

From Ocala.com, Lora E. Ide, 12 Dec 2011.

Pablo Garcia, a former migrant worker, goes through his produce to check for spoilage at his stand Tuesday morning. Doug Engle/Staff photographer

Pablo Garcia, a former migrant worker, goes through his produce to check for spoilage at his stand Tuesday morning. Doug Engle/Staff photographer

DUNNELLON, FL — On a blustery winter day, Pablo Garcia arrived early at his new produce stand and set out shiny green peppers, juicy tomatoes, cabbages, potatoes, apples, oranges and even pecans harvested as soon as they dropped from trees.

Alice DePerna, who lives in Rainbow Springs, doing her weekly grocery shopping, stopped to take a look.

“This is a great thing for Dunnellon,” DePerna said, as Garcia bagged her selections. “The quality is so good at stands like this. It’s picked practically overnight, and then it’s on your table.”

As a child and teenager when he had time off from school, Garcia worked in fields in South Florida for seven years picking fruit and harvesting vegetables along with his father and other family members.

After high school, he said he went to work as a heavy equipment operator for the city of Lake Worth, then retired a year ago and moved to Ocala, but missed being on the job.

“I needed something to do to stay busy. I know vegetables, so I thought I’d try a produce stand,” Garcia said.

He first set up at a different location two months ago, but didn’t do as well as he had hoped. Then some residents who live south of the Joy Foods store at West McKinney Avenue and U.S. 41 invited him to try his luck on their property.

Business has been steady ever since, Garcia said.

“I will be here six days a week and then I will take a day off to re-supply,” he said.

He gets some of his produce from farmers in Plant City, and some from friends who garden. When temperatures dropped recently, Garcia put on a heavy jacket and stocked his small stand with firewood.

“I have friends who have ideas for other things besides produce that I can sell here. And so far, so good, since people around here really seem to like fresh vegetables,” he said.

While a short-lived weekly farmers market at the Historic Train Depot closed in early summer, one woman and her husband own a produce stand that has thrived and another woman has had success selling produce at the monthly First Saturday Village Market.

Linda and Clayton Owens own the stand just south of Winn-Dixie on U.S. 41.

There’s a lot of work involved in running a quality stand, she said, but there’s an obvious need for the produce they supply and they like filling that need.

“Clayton has been driving to Tampa for our produce for 16 years, since we opened this stand. We like the quality you get down there and the variety,” she said.

With times as harsh as they are these days, there has never been a better time to add more fruit and vegetables into the family diet, said Bernice Johnson, a produce vendor at the monthly First Saturday Village Market.

You get good value for your money at produce stands, and a diet rich in fruit and vegetables is both tasty and healthy, she said.

Traditionally in this country, folks grew and put up vegetables in jars for use during winter months.

It would be a good time to relearn this old-

fashioned skill, she said.

“It’s not hard to can stewed tomatoes like I do, but it is time-consuming,” Johnson said.

Source: Ocala.com, “Fresh and Ready” by Lora E. Ide, 12 Dec 2011.


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