Can you imagine going to the same place, nearly every day, for the last 66 years?
Doris Berry can. She’s 86 and, just yesterday, began her 66th season at the original Farmer’s Market off West Street.
Stocked with Bassfield, Miss. hot house tomatoes, local greens, cabbage and sweet potatoes, Berry’s crew was working at a steady clip on Monday to put everything in place. One of those employees is Victor Wilson.
“I’ve been here 21 years,” he explained as he put fresh snap beans onto a wooden basket set up as a display. “The customers keep me coming back and Miss Berry – she’s like my mother.”
Last season, the legendary produce vendor remained until December 31, the longest they had ever kept the market open. Berry said it’s because there was a demand. “They just kept coming, so we stayed,” she noted. “It’s the longest we’ve ever been here.” Wilson added, “They still wanted those Louisiana satsumas, oranges, grapefruit and grapes. The season just lasted longer than usual.”
Speaking of Louisiana, one of the most popular items at Berry’s stand is strawberries. That’s why a member of Berry’s family was on the road early today, picking up the first batch straight from Ponchatoula.
Many Mississippi vegetables haven’t begun producing yet, so out-of-state fruits, like Washington apples, are sold. Others from from nearby, like Chilton County peaches, usually in the first week of June, Lucedale watermelons in late April and Smith County watermelons, available around the fourth of July.
What’s the secret to 66 years of success? “How do you think I know that?” Berry laughs. “I’ve been here a long time and people just come. If they get started, they – and their children and grandchildren – keep coming every year.”
Ever hopeful for a good season, Berry has noticed something that could translate to more business. “It seems like people are feeding their families more vegetables. You know, these kids like these hamburger houses and don’t want the peas and cornbread. But they need it. It’s good for them.”
Visit Doris Berry’s Original Jackson Farmer’s Market on Facebook, where Wilson interacts with customers and keeps the page updated regularly. The market is open seven days a week, usually 8am until 6pm.