Area produce stands stay productive during cooler summer

Kristen Strevey pushes forward a fresh basket of peaches at the Huffman Produce stand located at the intersection of West Mission Avenue and Lincoln Road in Bellevue on July 20. Strevey is in her second summer working for Huffman and said the produce business has been good this year with cooler temperatures relative to last year's drought and heat wave.

As summer begins its slow wane into fall, area produce stands continue to... well, be quite productive.

Thursday at the Nelson Produce stand at 22nd Street and Capehart Road in Bellevue, tomatoes and sweet corn — along with a bevy of other produce and value-added specialty products like local honey, jams and jellies — are moving quickly.

“Sales have gone pretty well,” said Pam Nelson of Valley, who owns and operates the produce company's Bellevue stand and another at 120th and I streets in Omaha. “We tend to see that the hotter it is, the more sales we have. When it's hot out, what's better than a piece of sweet corn or a slice of watermelon?”

Though temperatures haven't been nearly what they were in last year's heat wave, the relatively cooler weather has also brought out customers willing to browse a bit more.

On a recent Saturday, Kristen Strevey of Elkhorn was manning the Waterloo-based Huffman Produce stand at Lincoln Road and Mission Avenue. She was moving baskets of peaches at a harried clip.

“Really busy today,” Strevey said from behind sunglasses and beneath a large white canopy. She's in her second year with Huffman and said things seem brisker than they did in the kettle bottom of last summer's scorch. “I think people are coming out a little more this year. It's a little more favorable, weatherwise. For me, since it's a lot cooler, it's been nice.”

A sign nearby touted “Amazing Peaches” to be found with Huffman.

“The peaches are amazing,” Strevey said. “But the best sellers are still the tomatoes and the corn. Those go fast.”

The Huffman stand is also peddling canteloupe, watermelon, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, squash and zucchini.

Indeed, tomatoes at both Nelson and Huffman were looking lush and large, thanks to the spring rains and more favorable weather which is promising to provide a continued bumper crop of juicy red off the vine.

Nelson said the sweet corn and tomato sales are also the typical summer favorites. Her family has been in the produce stand business since her husband's grandmother started the stand at 120th and I streets some 25 years ago.

In addition to the typical fare, Nelson Produce adds peppers, cucumbers, watermelon, onions, canteloupe, green beans and cherries. Eggplant also made its first appearance at the Nelson stands last week.

“We try to be that one-stop shop,” Nelson said. “We try to get as much out there that people would need.”

The stand also partners with All About Bees — a local honey outlet in Ralston. The stand sells All About Bees products and the bees from the store also do their part as the pollinators for the Nelson vegetables.

“It's a great little partnership we've worked out,” Nelson said. “The bees come out and pollinate, she uses some of our vegetables in jams and salsas and we sell them here, too.”

Huffman Produce will remain open Mondays through Saturdays through mid-August. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

Huffman also maintains a stand in the Twin Creek retail center.

Nelson Produce is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Nelson said the stand will remain open through October and introduce new products including pumpkins and squash.

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