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Produce growers take a stand for freshness

July 24, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Washington County residents who enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables have a big crop of roadside stands to shop at this summer.

There are more than 40 roadside produce stands in the county, ranging from large, permanent stands to people selling produce from front yard tables and pickup truck tailgates.

Despite temperatures in the 80s on Thursday, many people preferred to drive a little further to a roadside stand than pop into an air-conditioned grocery store for their fruit and vegetables.

Patricia Culp, of 120 Stanford Road near Hagerstown, said she's sure there are people who prefer grocery stores, but her family is willing to drive to a Smithsburg area stand for fresh produce.

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"We know what we're buying here. We know it's quality produce," Culp said Thursday after her family bought four bags full of peaches, tomatoes, corn, cantaloupes and raspberries from Mountain Valley Orchard's stand in an old barn near Cavetown.

"If someone can't find fresh produce in season they're not looking very good," said Don Schwartz, Washington County Agricultural Extension agent.

Many small produce stands aren't advertised, Schwartz said. They often are run by people whose families used to farm and who have a interest in growing, Schwartz said. When they grow too much, they give it away or sell it.

"Sometimes people look for price advantages, but more likely for freshness," Schwartz said.

There's no mystery to why Phyllis Fertig drives from her Waynesboro, Pa., home once every two weeks to Mountain Valley stand.

"Let's face it. You're getting fresh stuff. It's not coming in from California," said Fertig, 70.

Mike Houser, 45, doesn't have to go far for fresh produce. On Thursday he bought some locally grown plums from Dick's Market on Salem Avenue, two blocks from home.

David Bowers, 43, of Liberty Street in Hagerstown, said he stops by Harry Britner's 900 Jefferson Blvd. house throughout the summer because the produce is fresh and the stand out front is convenient.

"All the produce is just better. You don't have to worry about it being frozen or old," said Bowers' girlfriend Doreen Bowers, 42.

Britner's girlfriend, Sue Gemeny, said she helps pick the corn every morning at the Williamsport farm of Britner's uncle and cousins. They start at 6 a.m. to have it ready for Britner's two roadside stands by 9 a.m. The other stand is in front of Homewood Retirement Center on Virginia Avenue.

Local produce usually starts showing up for sale along roadsides in late May with the first batch of strawberries, kicks into full gear in July with sweet corn, tomatoes and peaches and slows down in September with apples and pumpkins, Schwartz said.

After the Christmas tree season, plants and ornamental produce begin appearing at roadside stands in mid-March, he said.

"Everybody likes to grow stuff," making gardening the nation's number one hobby, Schwartz said. "You've got gardeners from ages 8 to 80."

Maxine Shoop said the cucumbers in a wheelbarrow in the front yard of her 20702 Jefferson Blvd. were grown by her 75-year-old husband, Robert.

He has been growing potatoes, yellow squash, cucumbers, rhubarb and red beets in a garden next to their home for 23 years.

John Rudolph, 66, said gardening keeps him busy in his retirement.

On Thursday Rudolph had a trunk full of corn he was selling from his Jefferson Boulevard farm, where he also grows green beans, cucumbers and tomatoes.

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