By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — it is a cool summer day in Newkirk, June 27. A layer of clouds hangs over the community, keeping temperatures low in the 70s when they should be much higher. The Bald Farmer on West South Street is abuzz with activity, as local patrons shop for the freshest produce, much of which they might have grown on their own, but rely on the facility to feed their fruit and vegetable needs.
Proprietor James Kirkendall kicks back in the cool breeze, engaging patrons as they approach. Even mid-morning, they have seen a lot of patrons.
“It has been very busy today,” he said.
Patrons are coming and going from the produce stand, looking over the colorful produce available at the facility, a love he has had for many years.
Kirkendall started the business about eight years ago. He is the construction coordinator at Pioneer Technology Center, but saw a need for extra income. Produce sales proved to be the most viable option, due to his love of gardening.
“I had always grown big gardens, and had a ‘green thumb,’” he said.
With that experience, he chose to make that extra income through gardening; not just growing the food, but also selling it to a hungry community.
“I needed extra income, and I started selling produce out of the back of the pickup, with an umbrella for shade,” he said. “I was traveling to flea markets to sell, but I realized, in Newkirk, I had just as much business as anywhere else, so I just decided to build the store.”
It was a perfect fit, as Kirkendall is not only native to Newkirk, but he already owned the property. All he had to do was build the stand.
Kirkendall sells many varieties of produce, from onions and potatoes, cucurbits like cantaloupe and watermelon, and tomatoes, at least early in the spring.
Offerings change as the season progresses into fall, with the final day of the season being Halloween.
“We have pumpkins, corn stalks, straw bales, homemade jellies, jams and salsa,” he said.
Although a lot of the produce originally came from his own garden, he has since turned to many others to help supplement the stand.
“I’ve had several farmers growing sweet corn for me over the years,” he said. “I’ve met with several gardeners and farmers that I buy from. I plant as much as I can, but the demand is so high, I can’t keep up on my own, so I’m always looking for other farmers.”
Monday mornings seem to be somewhat slower across the community, but not The Bald Farmer, as a stream of patrons grasped the wooden porch at the garden. Customer service is a big factor, reaching out to patrons who visit the facility.
“It is nice; everybody is happy to see you when they come,” he said. “It’s a nice, honorable business, and people are happy to be here.”
People even come from out of town the buy the produce.
“I come here at least three times a week,” said Judy Yunker, Blackwell. “The peaches are the best, and everyone is very nice.”
It is for those reasons that Kirkendall maintains his produce stand to reach out to the community with the best produce, and customer service, in Newkirk.
“I love it, and the customers love coming here because we’ve become a local favorite,” he said. “We guarantee what we see, and if you’re ever dissatisfied with your produce, we’ll refund or replace.”