Recent rain a blessing, curse for produce suppliers
by Briana Webster
Jul 27, 2013 | 1588 views | 0 0 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Charles Tingle, owner of Mid South Produce in Carbon Hill, arranges Amish foods that are delivered to his store from Tennessee and Ohio. Tingle and his father grow 85 percent of their produce themselves. The rest is purchased from local farmers. Daily Mountain Eagle photo - Briana Webster
Charles Tingle, owner of Mid South Produce in Carbon Hill, arranges Amish foods that are delivered to his store from Tennessee and Ohio. Tingle and his father grow 85 percent of their produce themselves. The rest is purchased from local farmers. Daily Mountain Eagle photo - Briana Webster
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The words “drought” or “downpour” have been on the lips of several meteorologists in the past few weeks in the United States, but neither have stopped customers from purchasing fruit and vegetables at local produce markets.

Market owners agree that the bounty of rain Alabama has received so far this summer has been both a blessing and a curse.

Johnny Sandlin, owner of Sandlin Produce on Airport Road, said the rain has caused some crops to not yield the normal amount of vegetables expected during the summer.

“All the rain has just messed everything up. It’s not as good as what it usually is,” Sandlin said. “Everything is just full of water right now.” 

According to a National Drought Mitigation Center drought impact report, Alabama showed no signs of drought or drought-like conditions from June 26 through July 26. However, the majority of Western and Mid-Western states, especially Colorado and Texas, display impacts ranging from 2 up to 27.

Sandlin, who buys a large portion of his produce from the Birmingham Farmers Market, said peas and beans have been flying off the shelves at his store because they have been in short supply due to the weather. He added that peaches always tend to sell easily.

“If it’s pretty and sunny, peaches, watermelons and cantaloupes sell and if it’s raining, nobody wants any of them,” Sandlin laughed. When asked about this year’s summer, Sandlin said, “It’s been different, that’s for sure. The stuff you usually get, that’s plentiful, you haven’t been able to get it this year like you normally would. The rain has just messed people’s fields up. Plus, the cost is higher and there isn’t as much of it.” 

Mid South Produce, located in Carbon Hill, sees approximately 2,500 to 3,000 customers a week, according to owner Charles Tingle. He and his father, Charles E. Tingle, grow 85 percent of their produce themselves on Tingle Farm in Corner.

Tingle said he has been in the produce business for “30 some odd years” and that he started farming at age 13. Tomatoes, peas, okra, corn and watermelons are in high demand at the store located off I-22. What Tingle doesn’t grow, he purchases from other Alabama farmers.

“I buy from little local farmers. None of it is from out of the country; it’s all grown here in Alabama,” Tingle said. “It’s been a pretty good summer here. The rain has helped a lot.” 

Friday afternoon was a busy day for local produce owners. Whether in person or over the phone, each one took his time speaking with customers about their personal day-to-day lives or enjoying small talk about the weather or their families.

Chris and Charlie Phillips, owners of Little Giant Farm Market in Sumiton, have been in business since 1977 when Charlie started selling produce out of the back of his truck.

Chris said people are wanting the typical “summertime” foods, such as shelled peas, tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, sweet corn, okra and, of course, Chilton County peaches.

“It’s been a challenging summer because of the rain that has fallen, but every year has its challenges,” the younger Phillips said. “I’m sure it’s been tough on many, but everything has its ebb and flow.” 

These businesses are open year round. Mid South Produce and Sandlin Produce are open every Monday through Saturday and Little Giant Farm Market is open every Tuesday through Saturday.

“There have been a lot of hot days,” Chris said. “There’s always challenges, but there’s always a way to find it (produce).”