If warmer weather has you dreaming of grilling up some corn on the cob or tossing together a fruit salad, Otis Orchards offers produce markets where you can find fresh and local ingredients.
Wheeler’s Farm Market, 21005 E. Trent Ave., has been selling local produce for 40 years. Darl and Alice Wheeler opened the stand after 20 years of running Wheeler’s Potato Farm on 28th Avenue and Dishman-Mica Road.
The little store is packed with fresh cherries, broccoli, apples, pears, tomatoes, asparagus, beets, seed potatoes, flowers, and even Key limes and pineapples.
Pat Wheeler, one of Alice and Darl’s six children, said they even have an honesty box out front – customers who stop by after hours can put cash into the box and take a melon.
Wheeler’s is a family business, and always has been. Darl Wheeler said his parents had their own, very large garden when he was growing up.
“We had to raise our stuff or we wouldn’t survive,” he said. One of 10 children, he moved with his family to Coulee Dam from North Dakota as a child before they came to Spokane Valley.
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Alice Wheeler died last year – a photo of the couple from the early years of their relationship hangs on the wall next to the cash register. The two were high school sweethearts at West Valley High School.
They had six children. Their daughter Pat has been helping Darl with the market over the last year. She said her brother has been helping with planting and cultivating.
Pat has fond memories of sorting potatoes after school while she was growing up.
“They were raised this way, every one of them,” Darl said.
Wheeler’s Farm Market is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. year round. Darl said 75 percent of his customers’ purchases are under $10, so to keep his costs low, he only accepts cash and checks.
Not far away, at Fresh Start Produce, 21619 E. Wellesley Ave., David and Lisa Kinyon have been in the produce business since 1978, when the two sold green beans they had grown on their property in Otis Orchards.
Lisa Kinyon said they put their four children to work at harvest time.
“We had an acre of green beans and a bunch of angry kids who had to pick them,” she joked. It was hard work: The beans grew low to the ground and there were a lot of them.
The family opened a produce stand in 1986 on the corner of Harvard and Wellesley, where they stayed until 1998, when they moved down the block to their present location.
Among the items they sell are flowers, local honey, starts for lavender, rosemary and cilantro, locally grown broccoli and bundles of fresh garlic. They also take orders for buckets of strawberries grown at Klicker’s Strawberry Acres in Walla Walla.
Connie King works at Otis Orchards Elementary School and often stops by for fruit and occasionally some veggies for lunch. She said the fruits and vegetables are always good and appreciates they are local.
Debra DuBois, owner of Boots, Roots and Boxes, a company that helps people in their garden, said she often stops by looking for flowers she can use in the gardens.
“They do a really nice job,” DuBois said of Fresh Start. “They have a great selection.”
The Kinyons start many of their plants in the greenhouses behind their stand and transfer them to the garden. They do sell some local blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, but they get most of their fruit from distributors.
“We’re mostly produce here,” Lisa Kinyon said.
The two have one employee, Christine Petrasso, another friend volunteers and a granddaughter helps out.
The last couple of years have been a challenge; David has multiple sclerosis and Lisa said he does what he can when he feels up to it.
In addition June weather has been cold and rainy the last two years, which has taken out a lot of their crops.
“What are you going to do when you are up against Mother Nature?” Lisa said.
The Kinyons have maintained their produce stand despite the setbacks.
Fresh Start Produce is open seasonally, typically from mid-April until October.
“We complete the year with hopefully ridding ourselves of pumpkins,” Lisa said.
They only accept cash and checks. They are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.