There are perhaps no better gardens in Mecklenburg County than in Mint Hill. From Wilgrove-Mint Hill Road, Lawyers Road, Highway 51 and everywhere in between, gardens spring up with tomatoes, sunflowers, squash, lettuce and watermelons.
But what to do with all the of the vegetables and fruits you can’t consume yourself or give to your family and neighbors?
You set up a cart in your front yard and sell it. Pete Larsen has a gazebo in his front yard on Highway 218 where he sells his heirloom tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers and whatever else he’s grown for the summer.
On Brief Road, there are two veggie stands within a few blocks of one another.
The Sassers have a small wagon where they are offering cucumbers for a $1 per bag.
Just up the road, Karen Aumiller put up a table a few years ago to sell some of her extra produce. All of them have jars where people can leave money for the produce they take, all on the honor system.
“When we moved into the house, I told my sister was going to sell veggies on the side of the road,” Aumiller said. “She laughed and bet me that someone would steal my jar. Every year she admits that, ‘you got me.’ But I still believe in people.”
No one has stolen her jar yet. In fact, some people will come by and leave IOUs in the jar and then later return to pay for the produce.
Some people will leave notes with special orders and then come back later to pick them up.
What began as a small table is now a full-fledged wagon, thanks to her neighbor Mr. Kerns. He had a wagon stored in his barn that his father used many years ago. The base of the wagon is made from an old Model T car.
Aumiller supplies the cart from her two gardens, one inside her fence that keeps the deer away, and the other on the outside of the fence. She also has chickens on the property (The Mint Hill Times told the story of her poultry last year.)
Nearly every morning she puts fresh eggs on the produce wagon and every day before noon someone has already purchased them. The chickens will eat some of the left over produce, giving the eggs a yoke that is much brighter and nutrient-rich than eggs you get at the supermarket.
None of the produce cart operators are getting rich. Larsen on Highway 218 probably gives more produce away than he sells.
Aumiller gives the money to her sister’s twins who are in college. More than anything, it’s the satisfaction of successfully growing crops and making other people happy.
“It’s just a simpler way of doing things,” Aumiller said.