MADISON COUNTY, Ala. - A Madison County farmer came to us with a problem: he says customers think his stand has closed, when in fact it is open and about to expand.
The Madison County farm across from the Target on Highway 72 in Madison has been in the Clift family since 1830. The family patriarch, Jack Clift, Sr., recently sold 550 acres to developer, Louis Breland. But Clift's grandson, John Clift, says his own produce stand will remain.
Clift's produce stand, S and J Produce, has been open for three years on Highway 72.
"I'm a fifth-generation farmer. I worked for my grandfather for a number of years, then I helped my father in the cotton business. I always wanted to work for myself out here, so that's when we decided we would give it a shot growing produce," he explained.
Clift said some people have come by since they opened last Thursday and been surprised they're still around. While he supports the sale of adjacent land for Breland to develop and likes what is to come at the site, he fears some people have stopped coming to his stand because they mistakenly believe he is no longer in business.
"We have been trying to explain, and get people to share with their friends, that we are in fact in business and we plan on staying," he stated.
Clift and his wife, who is also his business partner, are at the stand most of the time during the summer. He said they will soon start planting the tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupe, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, and eggplant they will sell throughout the summer. His turnip greens and sweet corn are already in the ground.
He wants people to know they're open for the season and plan on even expanding to 14 acres of fields.
"We are going to add a pumpkin patch this year!" he said excitedly. "We are also going to build another building." He wants to share that growth with the community: "We do take pride in what we grow, and we want to share that with our customers."
Overall, Clift said the future looks good. That is, if people come back to the business he has built and realize S and J Produce is sticking around through all the change that is about to happen nearby.
"I'm really pleased with the development that is going to take place," he said. "All the residential moving here, and some of the restaurants will just help our business."