By Jacob Mahaffey
Do you like fresh fruits and vegetables? Is it the first bite of a juicy tomato or the crisp crunch of corn on the cob? How about the sweetness of fresh berries or the delightful bite of a giant slice of watermelon? If the thought of delicious fruits and vegetables have peaked your interest you should check out Harvey’s Market in Big Prairie.
Harvey’s Market started out as a card table at the end of owner Harvey Mast’s driveway, selling the excess vegetables from his garden. To collect the money, he had a mason jar set on the table. “It was self-serve. Some people took the produce and some people took the money and the produce” Mast stated. “But I had fun with it.” At the time, Mast was a successful General Contractor building houses. While the money was good as a contractor, he soon figured out that family is more important than money. “I started enjoying that more than my construction,” he stated. “Spending more time with my family became more valuable than the paycheck.” So, Mast decided to take a pay cut, built a little stand and start the produce stand full time. “Man did I enjoy that summer,” he added. He began to hire family members as the stand grew. In fact, he is now in partnership with his brother. He also does something unique by sharing the profits from the stand with his family members. Altogether he has 10 employees, all family members.
As business grew so did the stand. He added on five additions in five years. The first was 24’x 24’, the next one was 24’x12’ including a walk-in cooler, the last three were porches around the building. For the first six years, Mast used his garage and a semi-trailer with a reefer unit to store produce. Last year, they were able to add a warehouse with a dock.
Harvey’s Market features vine-ripened produce which is almost entirely grown in the United States except for bananas and a few other items. Harvey and his brother start in May by visiting Florida to purchase the produce the store offers. From there they follow the harvest line north until it arrives in Ohio. “Wherever the product is ripe in the fields,” Mast explained. “We will bring it back to Harvey’s”
Harvey’s Market still prides itself on the use of the honor system. In fact, he still uses the lockbox from the card table days. “We have a lock box on our counter with a slit in it,” he stated. “I end up taking a 50-caliber green ammo box and I cut a slit in the tops and bolted it down to the table.” For the most part, Harvey’s customers are honorable when it comes to paying for produce. “In fact, often they’ll leave a tip rather than take advantage of it,” he added.
Produce isn’t the only thing you can find at the Market. On-site they also have a large pond for fishing. It is stocked with Catfish, Blue Gill, Perch, and Bass. It is $1 a person for catch and release. $3 if you want to keep the fish you catch. “You can fish all day without a license,” Mast explained. They also offer fish feeding. To go with the pond you can also purchase bait. Propane filling is another service they offer.
As far as the future goes for Harvey’s Market. “Keep going one step at a time, and see where the journey takes us,” Mast said. “It has taken twists and turns I could have never seen coming.” One thing they want to add is a high tunnel greenhouse system to grow tomatoes earlier in the season. For Harvey Mast, he never could have imagined what his small card table could grow into. “I’m living my dream,” he exclaimed.
Harvey’s Market is located at 12636 State Route 39, Big Prairie. The market is open from May 1 to October 31, 24 hours a day. If someone isn’t there just leave your money in the ammo box. You can also find them on Facebook at Harvey’s Market and online at www.harveysmarketllc.com.
This story originally appeared in the August 15, 2018 edition of The Budget. For more news, pick up a copy of this week’s edition available Wednesdays at area retailers. Better yet, subscribe and the news will be delivered to you each week. For more information, call us at 330-852-4634.