40 years of local food: Duck Creek Produce

Published: Jun. 2, 2014 at 8:51 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 3, 2014 at 9:45 PM CDT
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Kale, Swiss chard and tomatoes from Duck Creek produce. (Source: KLTV News staff)
Kale, Swiss chard and tomatoes from Duck Creek produce. (Source: KLTV News staff)

LINDALE, TX (KLTV) - You may have seen the sign alongside Highway 69 between Mineola and Lindale; the phonetically-written sign advertising "skwash" and "maters" attracts the attention of passersby, and that's just what the farmer behind the sign hopes will happen. It even drew the attention of Southern comedian Jeff Foxworthy, who

Jeff Foxworthy's picture of Farmer Jack's sign (Source: Facebook)

71-year-old Jack Roach and his nephew Daniel were working together on Monday afternoon at Duck Creek Produce as I stopped in on my never-ending quest for green tomatoes. (For some reason, grocery stores don't usually have them in stock.) In any case, Farmer Jack had plenty to sell me, as well as lots of yellow squash, zucchini, kale, onions, carrots, potatoes and rainbow Swiss chard.

I asked Roach how long he'd been selling at his farm stand, and he said he's been farming and selling in various locations in Lindale for nearly 40 years. The stand is definitely a family operation; for example,  his aunt and uncle placed the brick floor several years back where there used to be a sawdust floor, and before that a dirt floor. Roach's parents worked with him in years past, and his youngest sister's teenage son is helping him out this summer.

This isn't one of those produce stands that ships produce in from other states or countries to sell as if they were locally grown. On the contrary, this farm stand is stocked with produce grown on the land directly behind the stand, a piece of land Roach said stretches west for about a mile. He also owns land across the highway from the farm stand.  But how did he get started farming in the first place?

Roach said he worked for another family on a nearby farm beginning when he was only eight years old. The farm was close enough for him to walk to from his house, and he began working from pre-dawn to post-sunset, harvesting whatever they were growing at different times throughout the year. That farmer and his family farmed with horses, Roach recalled, and they paid him 50 cents a day, plus another commodity he was most interested in as a growing boy.

"They fed me three meals a day from whatever we were picking. If we were digging potatoes, we'd have hash browns for breakfast, mashed potatoes for lunch, and then they made fried potato patties for dinner, plus lots of biscuits and gravy and lots of fresh milk," he recalled. "I think they lost on that deal," he laughed.

He said he rented his first land to farm at age 14, and he's been going strong ever since, much to the complete happiness of those in the area who have patronized his stand for the last several decades.

Mr. Roach may not realize how far and wide his stand is known; the photo Foxworthy shared received 78,839 likes on Facebook, and was shared 21,952 times. Roach doesn't like his picture taken, so I honored that request, but that sign...that's becoming famous in its own right.

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