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Central Point FarmKart is a hit

CENTRAL POINT — Showing off their gardening skills and earning a little cold, hard cash during the pandemic, a couple of young farmers are appealing to the community’s appetite for locally grown produce and other farm fresh goods.

Ava Smith, 9, with some help from her 6-year-old brother, Justin Roberts, debuted an instantly popular FarmKart produce stand on Scenic Avenue in this summer.

If customers get there before everything sells out, they could end up with all the fixings for dinner — from lamb and tomatoes to fresh eggs, greens, prize-winning pepper relish and a bouquet of flowers for the table.

The ambitious sibling group — but mostly the sister, she has to admit — started out peddling eggs door-to-door, with help from a sign posted along the roadway. Devoted 4H-ers, they’ve sold eggs and grown produce since they were, as they say, “knee high to a grasshopper.”

With COVID-19 putting a damper on things like school and agricultural events, the kids decided to expand their offerings and put their wares into the hands of as many customers as they could.

“We always have a garden and it always makes entirely too much stuff,” explained mom and head supervisor Erin Smith.

Ava and her dad built the stand together, and it debuted on the Fourth of July.

“We had been talking about doing something like a farm stand for a long time already,” said Ava. “We looked on YouTube to see how to make a kart, and we built and painted it.”

Focusing her efforts on making the business both reliable and successful, Ava and her brother get their chores done in the early morning and put the kart out once they’ve harvested ripe veggies and collected eggs for the day. Whatever happens to be in season, they bag it up and put it on the kart.

“We put it out when we finish chores, but we try to put it in the morning because it gets hot in the afternoon,” explains Ava, noting that the kart was a solid business move.

“Before, we just put our egg sign out and we would walk around the neighborhood and only had maybe eight or a dozen customers every week. Now we sell them at the FarmKart, and some weeks we get 20 or 30 customers,” she said.

An admitted foodie, Central Point resident Launda Dodd happened onto the FarmKart almost by accident.

“I just happened to drive down Scenic Avenue and saw their little sign out front, then I saw online where the mom posted on Facebook. When it first started I only got a few things — I got eggs and zucchini — but now I’ve gone in one trip and ended up with yellow squash, tomatoes, baked goods, a bouquet of flowers,” Dodd said.

“Ava is very knowledgeable, and her mom obviously works with her. Last time, she was telling me about her grandparents’ pepper jelly and telling how they make it, and she bakes things to sell at the kart, too. It’s fun to support local, and you can’t get much better than it being just picked.”

Determined to keep her business going, Ava and her brother have saved some money, bought some needed items — such as new shoes and farm supplies — and even treated their parents with some of their earnings.

“Sometimes we take our parents out to lunch. Last time we had our nephew over, we got ice cream,” said Ava.

“We used some of it to help buy chicken feed ... because we have like a lot of chickens and we have to put some money back into helping out.”

As to her grandparents’ legendary pepper jelly, “Smith’s Hot Pepper Sensation,” Ava explains that it’s been a regular county fair standout for a dozen years and is available in a handful of flavors.

“They make all kinds of flavors like pineapple, hot apple pie, cilantro lime, chipotle, merlot, Oregon peach, blackberry and raspberry,” she rattles off. “They’ve been making it for like 11 or 12 years.”

Eggs aside, other items zucchini bread, banana bread, cucumbers, tomatoes, grapes, basil, walnuts, sunflower seeds and — also a county fair winner for the family — carefully tended thyme.

Excited to make some money, Ava and her mom figure she’s honing skills encouraged by 4-H, such as speaking skills and how to market a quality product.

Ava points out, “And also I’m learning to have a lot of patience because, like, you’re sitting out there for three to four hours just having people drive by and people slow down and stop traffic for a minute sometimes but then keep going.”

“My mom sits out there and reads a book. My brother mostly rides his bike and eats all the snacks. Sometimes people stop and pull up and say, ‘Do you know where Seven Oaks is?’”

She adds with a laugh, “That kind of traumatizes us a little bit, but we tried to grow corn and we just didn’t know how to pick it right. ... But it’s OK because we have pretty much everything else.”

The FarmKart is located at 2242 Scenic Ave. Watch for schedule information on the “What’s Happening Central Point” Facebook page.

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAva Smith and Justin Roberts sell fruits to Kelsie Herzog of Gold Hill from their Farmkart in front of their Central Point home.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAva Smith and Justin Roberts sell all kinds of farm goods from their Farmkart in front of their Central Point home.