By Ginna Parsons
Ginna Parsons 6/14/10
Leslie Criss 6/14/10
Photo by Deste Lee
Jay Swindle, 70, opened the Farmers Market in Saltillo in May 2009. The work is hard, he said, but the friendly people in town make it worthwhile.
Hed: Saltillo businessman enjoys fruits – and vegetables – of his labor
By Ginna Parsons
SALTILLO – Jay Swindle was practically destined from birth to own a farmers’ market, but a farmer he is not – and never wanted to be.
“I’ve got 11 brothers and all of them was at one time peddling or growing something,” said Swindle, 70. “As the youngest, I did what they told me to do, so I’ve been around farming all my life.”
Back when Swindle was growing up, though, farming was hard, hard work for his family. They raised 97 percent of everything they ate. The only items purchased at the store were sugar, flour and coffee.
“We farmed with mules. We were sharecroppers,” he said. “I knew I didn’t want to do that, that kind of life. Two of my brothers did, though. They were big cotton and soybean farmers around Eupora. I remember the first time a tractor came into our community, everybody took off to go see it. We didn’t know what that was, see, everybody had mules.”
Eupora is where Swindle was born and raised, and he recalls the town fondly: “One red light, one pigeon and a half a Yellow Page. When a person says, ‘Good morning,’ well, then, that’s all they know.”
Quality is everything
Swindle himself was a peddler of sorts. For 25 years, he was a salesman for Calgon, which was a subsidiary of Merck. And on the weekends, he’d help one of his brothers who had a produce market on West Main Street in Tupelo.
After retirement, Swindle and his wife Lucy, left Tupelo and moved to Hernando for eight years to be close to their son, his wife and their two girls.
There, he opened his own farmers’ market.
So it was only natural that when he and Lucy moved back to Tupelo in 2008 to spend some time with their daughter, her husband and their two boys, they would open a market in this area.
The Farmers Market in Saltillo, which the Swindles operate Mondays through Saturdays, opened its doors in May 2009.
“I try to handle better quality than anybody anywhere,” he said proudly. “We get the best we can buy. You don’t have to apologize for quality.”
Much of what Swindle sells is grown right here in Northeast Mississippi, but if the best peaches available are from Alabama or the tastiest watermelons are grown in Lucedale, then that’s what he stocks.
Not quitting soon
One recent morning, his bins were filled with tomatoes, peaches, cantaloupes, new potatoes, rattlesnake beans, cucumbers, squash, okra, peppers, watermelons and apples.
“I really enjoy this, but it does seem like it’s getting more demanding every year,” he said. “Yesterday, I got up at 3:30 in the morning to drive to Birmingham to pick up my peaches and tomatoes. And it seems like the watermelons are getting heavier.”
But even with the long days and hours, Swindle doesn’t see himself closing up his store anytime soon. In fact, he and Lucy, who call one another Mama and Daddy, are in the process of building a brand new home in Saltillo.
“It’s rewarding work here because we’ve made a lot of friends,” he said. “The people here are warm, they’re cordial and they’re sincere. I think we’re going to be really happy living here.”
Contact Ginna Parsons at 678-1581 or firstname.lastname@example.org