LAKE WYLIE -- Tim and Phyllis Reid picked one ripe year to reopen their roadside produce stand.
"It's like people have been waiting on us to open up," said Phyllis Reid.
South Forty Farms on S.C. 274, just north of the Pole Branch Road intersection, opened last week with customers coming just as soon as the bushels hit the counter. It was the first time the Reids sold their own produce since closing a pick-your-own strawberry field about 10 years ago. For the couple who spent 21 years selling fireworks near Carowinds, the response has been a pleasant surprise.
"Everybody's been so nice, and we're beginning to meet our neighbors," said Phyllis Reid, whose commute consists of walking to the end of their driveway, looking both ways and crossing the highway.
Two of the 70 acres where the Reids have lived for more than 40 years now grows corn, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, yellow and zucchini squash, Spanish spice peppers and onions. But the biggest draw might just be the produce that won't come off the vine for another week or two -- tomatoes.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began warning consumers that several varieties of tomatoes were linked to a salmonella outbreak. With the recent scarcity of tomatoes nationally brought on by the warning, more people are looking to roadside stands like the Reids' for homegrown goods. The Reids currently sell South Carolina tomatoes not impacted by salmonella, but will soon have garden-grown tomatoes.
In the meantime, people who are taking more notice of roadside stands are finding a variety of crops worth trying. The Reids' stand has seen steady traffic each day, sometimes three or four people at a time, including Donna Lee of Gastonia and Debbie Braddy from nearby in Lake Wylie who said Wednesday they enjoy having local produce grown by neighbors.
"Momma bought some squash and okra yesterday, and she sent me back out today to get some more," said Sharon Greene, who lives just up the road from the stand. "We love having it here."
J.D. Bailey, who mans the Bush-N-Vine stand on S.C. 49, said he's had more customers lately, too, also in search of safe tomatoes.
"I've had a lot of North Carolina people coming down here," Bailey said. "They tell me they're coming down here where the produce is good."
Just down the road the Peach Stand on S.C. 49 makes its hay, as the name might suggest, with peaches. But, owner David White said, more people are coming for tomatoes and leaving with peanuts, zucchini, squash and, of course, peaches.
"Things are going real well," White said. "The Lord blesses us in many ways."
The Peach Stand, open every day except Sunday through September, gets its produce from The Peach Tree in Filbert. Like the other local stands, White said, nobody needs to worry about the produce grown and sold locally.
Even restaurants are using local vendors to keep stocked. Tim Reid recently sold vegetables to Cafe 49 in Lake Wylie, as well as another restaurant in Rock Hill. Lamar Shaw, manager at Cafe 49, said the new partnership is one of the few positives of the tomato scare.
"It has introduced us to the local vendors," said Shaw.
Even though Cafe 49 now receives shipments of certified safe tomatoes, dishes including locally grown squash or other vegetables found when the restaurant went looking for help likely will remain on the menu as long as the vegetables are in season.
"They're right down the street," Shaw said of local growers. "They can be here in 20 minutes if we need them and we can have vegetables right off the truck."
However, local farmers do have a few concerns, Reid said, including water use. The extreme drought the past year has farmers rethinking irrigation, but the plants are not suffering, he said. Carolina farmers are having to plant corn seeds by hand and run drip irrigation.
"That's the only way to have it anymore," Reid said.
Even if drought conditions persist, the local produce should be better this year than last, especially the peaches, White said.
"Last year the frost and the freeze are what wiped us out more than the drought," he said.
Barring "a hailstorm or something," local produce stands should have fresh fruit and vegetables at the usual prices--even tomatoes--through September.
"We have to pick every day, so we'll probably open up on Sunday, too," Reid said.
LOCAL GROWERS/ 4A
WANT TO GO? South Forty Farms at S.C. 274 and Pole Branch Road is open from 9:30 or 10 a.m.- 7 p.m. every day through September. Bush-N-Vine on S.C. 49 is open 9 or 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Sunday through about the second week of August. The Peach Stand on S.C. 49 is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday through September. For more information on which tomatoes are safe to eat, visit fda.gov.