Janice Davis grew up on a farm in the Mansfield/Venus area.
But as an adult, her husband’s job moved them from place to place - and never on a farm - until several years ago when they returned to the vicinity.
Their youngest, Richard, was 14 when the family moved to acreage between Mansfield and Venus on Highway 157 and next door to his grandmother. Richard’s grandmother, who was no longer physically able to keep up with her garden, needed help and he was more than happy to come to her aid, Davis said of her son.
What started as a chore became an enjoyable hobby, which grew into a home school project and finally blossomed into a business that might well become a lifetime career for Richard, according to his mom.
Richard’s Produce began with a sign near the road advertising vegetables from the family’s 1-1/2 acre garden.
“People would see the sign and pull up and come knock on our door. One year we had so many beets we didn’t know what to do with them all,” said Davis, who said she began pickling and canning the surplus.
“One of our customers asked Richard, ‘What are you going to do with all those beets?’ and Richard told him that I was making pickled beets. The customer then asked if he could buy the pickled beets and I said, ‘Sure.’ ”
Later, someone requested pickled okra and then another person asked for salsa. It was at that time Davis realized if she and her son were going to continue selling canned items, it would be necessary to prepare them in a state-approved kitchen.
“There was such a demand for this and we used the money we made to pay for a kitchen,” said Davis. “We got licensed and we went to Better Process Control School.”
Although Richard didn’t try his hand at gardening and farming until he was a teen, his mother’s farming roots run deep. Now that the Davis family has relocated back to the area, Richard finds himself surrounded by farms, the business of farming and a family of farmers.
“My family has farmed all their lives and my brothers still farm today. They grow crops of wheat, milo, corn and cotton on a large scale on acreage in this area,” Davis said. “My daughter has 11 acres that is an orchard in the Waco area. Richard planted her orchard and is caring for it. It is a new orchard with fig, pear, peach and plum trees.”
In recent years, Richard and Janice began selling their vegetables, fruits and canned food items at various area farmers markets.
“In the past, we participated in a farmers market in Mansfield. But this year, we are only participating in the Waxahachie Farmers Market,” Davis said. “Sometimes we sell wholesale in Dallas, too. We really don’t aim to grow enough to have vegetables to wholesale, but sometimes it happens that we have that much.
“But last year we had a drought and this year it was the rain,” she said.
Vegetables from their farm usually include corn, peas, okra, turnips, beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and a large variety of squash.
“We also grow habanera peppers, but we usually put those in our salsa and don’t sell so many individually,” she said. “We usually have a lot of onions, so many, in fact, that onions are one vegetable that we’ve always sold wholesale. Because of the rain this year, though, we didn’t even have enough onions to fill our customers’ needs.”
Some of the vegetables sold by Richard’s Produce are grown on other farms.
“We also buy produce from East Texas and sell it. They can grow things we can’t because they have sand and we have more black dirt. Like, we don’t usually grow many melons because they grow better in East Texas,” Davis said. “And then, of course, there are some things that grow better in black dirt than sand.”
Davis grew up canning with her mother and notes that some of the recipes they use are those of her grandmother’s and her grandmother-in-law’s.
Among the prepared foods, Richard’s Produce customers have their choice of canned chow-chow, zucchini relish, pickled beets, pickled okra, pickled asparagus and salsa, as well as cherry, peach, plum, kiwi and jalapeno jams and jellies.
“We also make wild grape jelly. It’s my favorite jelly in the world. I’ve made that all my life because I love it so much,” said Davis, saying that many of the mustang grapes used in the wild grape jelly come from her daughter’s home near Waco.
Some of the fruit used to make the jams and jellies comes from the orchard on her daughter’s property, as well.
“Of course, the cherries used come from Washington state,” she said.
Richard’s Produce is one of many vendors at the Waxahachie Farmers Market on the courthouse square in downtown Waxahachie from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. every Saturday through Oct. 27.