Going back in time to the early 1980s, interest rates for farm loans were at 24 percent and the Jones family had one big customer: a large grocery chain that paid its invoices 120 days after they were issued. Calling that a cash flow problem would be an understatement, indeed.
Toss in a devastating hailstorm and the Jones family losing their farm and nearly all their worldly goods—including the vehicles they used to transport produce—and you’ll realize how much Farmer Lee and his family had to overcome.
Creative, they were—plus people chipped in to help. One neighboring farmer let them use a small plot of land to grow vegetables that the family could sell at farmer’s markets. Lee would head to the east side of Cleveland while his brother and parents took other spots.
A Call from a Cousin’s Husband
The cousin and her spouse had decided to purchase a new Jeep and if the Jones family wanted their old Datsun hatchback—one with a couple of hundred thousand miles—they could have it. The price: free. The challenge: they needed to pick it up in Maine, nearly a thousand miles away.
“They knew we were desperate for help,” Lee remembers, “and we appreciated the offer.” He hunted down the cheapest flight possible, one that took him within fifty miles of the cousin’s home. He thumbed a ride the rest of the way.
“They transferred the vehicle into my name,” he says, “for $1.00. Then I drove the car home.”
Upon arriving back in Huron, Ohio, they removed the back seats from the Datsun. A little bit of experimentation showed that, if they packed the peck baskets in exactly the right way, they could fit a hundred of them—meaning, 2,400 heads of fresh lettuce.
“We’d pick our lettuce the day before the delivery date and get ready to leave early in the morning,” Lee says. “We’d make deliveries to Cleveland on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Columbus on Wednesdays and Fridays, leaving the weekend for the farmer’s markets.”
The family repaired the vehicle more than once until they just couldn’t keep the body straight enough on the frame anymore. The engine? It still worked.
Another Vehicle Story
Lee remembers another iffy vehicle they used, back in those challenging days. Lee was driving down Route 270 when the truck just wouldn’t go another inch. The vehicle was full of fresh produce and Lee didn’t know what to do.
“We finally figured that, if we could get four taxi cabs to meet us, they’d be able to take the produce the rest of the way.”
But . . . you just knew there was a catch, right? Lee needed to pay with a credit card. “After our financial troubles on the farm, none of us had one,” he says. “Fortunately, a farm employee let us use hers and we paid her back with a check the next day.”
Another time, the engine blew while Lee was still close to home. “We needed to transfer all of that produce to another vehicle,” he says, “and I was late when I got to the farmer’s market. Really late. Fortunately, our customers were happy to see me, and they helped me to unload the truck.”
Ordering Fresh Lettuce is Easier Today
Much easier! You can order your farm-fresh mixed lettuce online, knowing that you’ll receive just-harvested produce, the best of the day in a wonderful mixture of flavors, textures, and visual appeal. Try these lettuce recipes or use these delicious greens in your favorite ways.