by Stefanie Powers
Who doesn’t love fresh, farmstand produce? Head out to Iowa and check out Fresh Pickins.
“My Dad, Carl Johnson and I started growing vegetables about 10 years ago,” says daughter Courtney Guillory, who runs the store. “We would compete against each other on who could grow the best garden. We had all these extra vegetables, so we’d put them at the road under a tent with a money box and relied on the honor system. Just ask the customers who have been with us since the beginning. They’ll remember ‘Pay the Lady.’”
The demand for fresh produce was so great that eventually, the family decided it was time to expand. Carl and Dana Johnson opened Fresh Pickins in the summer of 2017.
“May, June, and July are the busiest months,” says Dana Johnson.
“During that time, we’re harvesting cucumbers, tomatoes, red potatoes, peppers, beans, yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant, blackberries, blueberries, corn, okra, etc. We start planting our fall crop in September, and harvest October through December. At that time, we grow mustard greens, turnips, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, satsumas, grapefruit, lemons, and more.”
Other items sold at Fresh Pickins include homemade jellies, preserves, and pickles, farm-raised chicken eggs and homemade cakes. “Of course, our most popular items are homegrown fruits and veggies,” says Johnson. “Mayhaw jelly and fig preserves are also very popular. We are all about homemade/homegrown, so we also have wooden items, candles, quilts, etc. all made by family and friends.”
Guillory’s husband grew up farming rice, soybeans, crawfish and hay. “So, we are very blessed to have land to grow most of the produce at Fresh Pickins,” she explains. “We also buy from other local farmers and are so thankful for them.”
Johnson credits the growth of the business in the past few years to family and friends. “One of my favorite things about Fresh Pickins is visiting with everyone who walks through our door,” she says. “People tell stories about their childhood and how Fresh Pickins brings them back to the good old days of their grandparents growing fresh produce and canning everything. We truly cannot thank all of our customers enough for their support. It means the world to us.”
To the family, farming is more than a business; it’s a way of life. “It’s a calling and it’s loving every minute of it!” Johnson adds. “This year was one of our hardest due to the rainy weather and flooding.
Our operation depends on Mother Nature, and she is truly the boss. We have three grandchildren and the last thing I want them to see is us giving up due to rain, so we get out there, replant and hope and pray for the best. We cannot wait to see what the fall crop holds for us, and we are already planning on kicking it up a notch next summer.”
While summer harvest is coming to an end, make sure to visit their Facebook page for daily updates on their fall produce. Their hours during harvest are Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. The honor system is still available 24/7, 365 days a year.
Fresh Pickins, 23077 Highway 383, Iowa, (337) 488-3195. Find them on Facebook @fresh.pickins16