By By Tracy L. Brady, Hartselle Enquirer
There's a little section of Eva that might be better known to some as U-Pick-It, Alabama.
"A friend of mine at church travels around the country to give speeches," Jean Vest said. "She met a man out West once who asked her where she was from, and when she said Eva, he said, 'Oh, you mean U-Pick-It, Alabama.'"
At best guess, Jean and her husband James moved from Hartselle to Eva about 40 years ago. About 20 years after that, the couple decided to grow a big garden.
"We was raised in the cotton patch," James said. "And it was hard work, you know. Raising a big garden just came natural to us."
With 80 acres and two employees, James and Jean raise everything from giant watermelons to grape-size tomatoes.
"We grow everything," James said.
Open every weekday and Saturday from 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. or so, customers come from far and near to sample the variety of natural wares at the Vest U Pick Farm.
"A man from Houston came by this week and loaded his truck down with tomatoes," James said. "He came by last year and did the same. His family told him then he better not come back from Alabama without tomatoes ever again."
According to James, the produce trade is best during the early morning and late evening hours, when the sun isn't too hot for picking.
Or, if you like, they'll pick it for you. James or Onice Holmes will even carry it to your car.
"We pick about 150 dozen ears of corn a day," James said. "Right now, we have Silver Queen and Fox G90."
Holmes and Theodore Perez, full time employees at Vest U Pick Farm, help James pick and sell all of the produce.
"I believe they're the best people around," Homles said of the Vests. "Couldn't work for or know anybody better."
As Holmes talked about working on the farm, James stopped to buy Perez a cold drink to ease the effective of the hot July sun.
Jean said even though the weather has been a little dry this year, "All in all it's been pretty good."
But James said dry weather has been the least of their problems. A five and one-half acre pond used for drip irrigation takes care of any possible rain shortage.
"The Japanese beetles are eating up our corn," James said. "They eat the silks and then the corn won't pollinate or mature."
This is the first year James has had to battle Japanese beetles, but he said the poison he is using on the corn seems to be doing the trick.
"We'll get 'em," James said.
Besides corn, the Vests grow tomatoes, pole beans, butter beans, peas, watermelon, cantaloupe, egg plant, pepper, cabbage, strawberries, collard greens, broccoli, and cauliflower.
And after 20 years of farming their little corner of Eva, James and Jean said they have no immediate plans to retire.
"As long as we able to work, we'll stay busy," James said.