On a hot May afternoon in Fondren, 82-year-old Doris Berry is asleep in a chair amidst mounds of fresh fruit and vegetables. But give her a much-deserved break: she’s been in that spot for 62 years.
Doris Berry’s Produce Market, part of what some call the “old Farmer’s Market” on Woodrow Wilson, has survived despite bigger and better things a mile or two away. When the new farmer’s market was built on High Street, vendors left, but Berry’s stayed.
And daughter-in-law Brenda Berry says the hours – and the people – have kept them firmly in place. The Simpson County family makes the 7 days a week, hour-long drive each way to set up shop along with the Cockrells from Smith County who are just across the way. “We’re here every day, 7:30 am to 6 pm, Brenda Berry said, “and 9:30 am to 6 pm Sundays.” Berry says their hours would have been more limited in other locations and that they couldn’t leave their customers. “It’s the people that make us love this area,” she says. We see their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren coming to shop with us.”
And what do they shop for? Mississippi fresh produce like tomatoes picked yesterday. “You can’t hold produce,” Berry told us, saying their offerings are what set them apart from other available options. “All from the south.” Local beans, squash, cucumbers, and cabbage are here, along with Florida oranges and Alabama and Georgia peaches among other things.
While the location may not be prime real estate, shoppers seem to come back year after year. “We appreciate their devotion,” Berry said. “They’re good to us.” As for planned developments by University Medical Center that include the farmer’s market property, Berry said their location is firm. “They (UMC) told us last year we would be here. They told us they’d build us into their plans.”
The Farmer’s Market is in season from March to October, sometimes November.
UPDATE: Doris Berry moved her business to Pearl in 2017. She passed away in August 2018 at the age of 89.