Local sells bounty of fresh produce n roadside stand

If your daily commute runs along Carterville Road, chances are you have encountered Joe Bryant. Bryant, a former farmer, sets up his produce stand along the edge of Adam’s Nursery parking lot six days out of the week – rain or shine, chilly or scorching. The Petal native has been a fixture in the area, as he has sold produce for approximately 15 years.

The stand offers a little of everything, especially in the summer months when the season for farm-fresh vegetables is in full swing.

“I used to grow it all myself, but now I purchase it all from local farmers,” he said.

Passersby can rarely resist the temptation of stopping by to purchase a sweet, Smith County watermelon and a quick visit with Bryant.

“Tomatoes are my main thing,” Bryant said of his most popular item. “They are the most popular.”

However, tomatoes are not all that he keeps stocked in his roadside stand. Bryant offers a variety of produce, including sweet potatoes, corn, grapes, okra and watermelons.

The sweet potatoes, corn and tomatoes are piled high on his table, because Bryant knows those are the items that will sell out first as they are his most popular.

He also has a small selection of honey and jellies, in addition to bouquets of flowers.

The watermelons go quick. Bryant said he purchases 100 watermelons at a time.

“I usually go get about two loads (of watermelons) a week,” he said. “I sometimes sell about 300 a week, easy.”

To say his stand is popular with Petal residents would be an understatement.

“On a slow day, at least 50 or more people stop by,” he said. “I get a lot of business here. I have some real good regular customers.”

Before he could get the words out of his mouth, a customer pulled into the lot beside Bryant’s truck bed and table, which serve to display his goods. After inquiring about watermelons – already sold out for the week – the man decided on a couple of bags of grapes and told Bryant, “I’ll be back next week for the watermelon.”

When the summer is over and the tomatoes and watermelons are no longer in season, Bryant will still be a fixture on Carterville Road.

“I always have whatever is in season,” he said.

Right now, he hawks his wares while attempting to beat the heat Monday through Saturday from around 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. However, beginning in December, he will fight off the chill each Thursday, Friday and Saturday with the same hours, offering produce to fit the season.

He will then start up his usual summer schedule beginning in May of next year.

Bryant’s stand will be closed on Saturday, July 15, as he will be in Laurel beginning his life with his new bride. Their wedding is the culmination of a relationship that began at his church.

As for his stand, Bryant does not plan to keep it closed for too long. Petal residents do need their farm-fresh tomatoes and locally-grown watermelons, of course.

“I might take just a little time off but not much,” he said with a smile.