Oklahoma gardener sells produce via the ‘honor system’
DUNCAN, Okla. (AP) — One Duncan man is taking a leap of faith and trying something new when it comes to the iconic roadside produce stand. Inspired by farm stands seen across the country during his years in the trucking industry, as well as his own personal health journey, Floyd Carter began “The Healing Garden;” and is now selling his roadside produce in a unique way — by using the honor system.
Carter began his journey into gardening four years ago, after a health scare left him without a CDL and unable to continue trucking. 62-years-old at the time, Carter decided he had reached his retirement age, and it was past time to do what he had always loved — garden.
“What happened to me is I was on the road. I had 2 million miles driving a big truck — I had pneumonia when I was on the road and I was very healthy, but I had pneumonia and I contracted the H1N1 virus — up in Denver,” Carter said. “I barely made it home and they gave me five days to live and said I was not going to recover, that I was going to get progressively worse and die. And that wasn’t acceptable. And so (later) I started dehydrating, growing my own garden, and stuff like that and I’d dehydrate things. I had congestive heart failure and they sent me home to die after that again and so then they took my CDL to where I couldn’t drive anymore. I’m turning 66 in August this month, so I knew I was going to have to retire. I didn’t want to go look for a job and we just decided to do this. My wife is a nurse out at the hospital and this is what I’ve always wanted to do. When I was a little boy, my granddad had 2 thousand beehives. They called him ‘honey man’, and I always thought that was cool because he went around to all the fruit stands — and sold honey, and it was always in my heart to do that type of stuff.”
The Duncan Banner reports that an essential component of Carter’s vision is making sure his produce is grown “just as God intended,” in an all-natural, insecticide-free way — no matter how much more difficult or time-consuming that old-fashioned way of gardening made the process.
“I just wanted to grow things that didn’t have chemicals in it. One time — I was a truck driver and I came back from North Dakota — and I drove 600 miles watching them spray corn. And not one bug got on my windshield and that’s when it hit me. What we’re eating. So I wanted to grow things that didn’t have anything in them. (That is) just the way they’re supposed to be,” Carter said. “It’s very difficult when you don’t spray chemicals. They go out there and they spray chemicals, and they don’t have a bug infestation. I walk out and I’m tired and I’m exhausted and I spray water and bugs go (everywhere) and now I’ve got to pick them all up and chase them. I never understood why (all-natural) food costs so much more, but I’m not charging more. I’m not doing it to get rich. If I can help pay for this garden and provide my family with good food, that’s my main objective.”
Partly because of the extra time needed to tend to an all-natural garden of its size, Carter doesn’t have time to man a roadside stand and sell his wares to the public. Carter’s wife, Rose, also has a full-time job working at Duncan Regional. The couple put their heads together and came up with a solution to their problem — selling their produce at an un-manned stand via the honor system.
“I grow vegetables, and so i can’t work the garden and sit up here with the vegetable stand, so we came up with the idea of the Honor Stand, to where it’s unmanned and people come in and shop what they want to, if they don’t have any money they can pay me next time, or not at all. I hate that (last) idea but it could happen,” Carter said. “When they come in, they see what’s available, then they go to the money box and (that) is where they put the money.”
Though they are just getting started, the reaction the Carter family has received from the public has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Right now I have squash and okra and tomatoes and watermelons, because we are just starting this year and we’re not really going to do a whole lot until next year. But this year is mainly just overflow, rather than feed it to the chickens, I’m going to bring it up here,” Carter said. ”(We’ve had the honor stand set up) about three days. Everybody loves it, they love the idea. I love the idea that I can be out here working and people drive up here and they wave at me and I wave back and they walk over here because they know I’m a talker. They don’t want to talk to me a lot because I don’t ever shut up. (laughs)”
Carter said he has faith that the people of Duncan will be honest and understand and respect the amount of work and time his family has put into the produce.
“I want to provide it for my children and my grandchildren — we just, we’re trying to make it a family deal and I want to leave them something substantial. Besides money, which they wouldn’t get from me anyway, (laughs) I’m going to try to leave them with as few bills as I can.”
The Healing Garden is located at Elk and Waterplant roads. From the intersection, turn North on Waterplant and The Honor System Farm Stand is located on the west side of the road. Carter is currently working on a way to let potential shoppers know what is currently available, but the offerings will be seasonal and more will be available as the garden matures.
According to the Rose Carter, the stand is open every day until “around 7 p.m., we can’t leave it out or the deer will get it all.”
Information from: The Duncan Banner, http://www.duncanbanner.com