If you’ve ever traveled Hwy 231 on the way to Utica, chances are you’ve passed the Bittel’s produce stand, or you’ve stopped by for some sweet corn. You won’t find any signs or advertisements around town though, as the Bittels prefer to be an old-fashioned word-of-mouth business.
Lisa and Hugh Bittel said the idea for the stand started about 18 years ago, with an overabundance of tomatoes and a card table.
“It started because I had too many tomatoes in my garden,” Lisa said. “I put a card table underneath the tree with a piece of posterboard.”
The stand is open from the end of June until about the middle of August. Lisa said they put a few “odds and ends out after that, but corn is our main thing.”
The stand and the sweet corn have grown to be quite popular. In a ten minute span on a Sunday afternoon, three different families pulled up, picked out their produce, and put their money into the locked ‘Honor System’ box.
George Hagan and his wife said they visit the stand about every week or two. Hagan said that the Bittels are not only a convenient place to visit, but they have good produce as well.
“I came out here and bought up everything she had left,” he said.
As far as the Honor System box, Lisa said they run on an honesty policy when they are not tending to the stand. She said they have had very few instances of dishonesty.
“We trust people that if we’re not out there, they will put their money in (the box),” Lisa said.
For those that are under the impression that the stand is unmanned, you would be mistaken. It is under supervision 24 hours a day by Manny and Genevieve, and their daughter Jackie.
Lisa said they originally put a mannequin at the stand as a joke, but it eventually evolved into a family of mannequins and several scarecrows.
The unique decor of the stand does not end with the mannequins. Lisa was inspired by an idea on Pinterest a few years ago, that led to her husband rescuing the bed of a truck from a back road, having it repainted and building a display top for it.
While they take pride in providing fresh fruits and vegetables to customers, the farm fresh stand has gone far beyond that.
“It’s a little more of a service to the community,” Hugh said. “Now everyone depends on us.”