FACES & PLACES: Verbena farmers provide produce across state
Editor’s note: This story published in The Clanton Advertiser’s Faces & Places 2015. Copies are still available at the Advertiser office, located at 1109 Seventh St. S. in Clanton (across Hwy. 31 from the Winn-Dixie shopping center). Or, read a digital version of the magazine here.
Verbena farmers Scott and Rachell Penton are always looking for new ways to get their produce to customers.
“We spend a lot of time trying to figure out new and fresh ways to do things,” Rachell Penton said. “Our customers like knowing where the food they eat comes from, and we enjoy providing them with produce they like to eat.”
Perhaps the concept of “new” and “fresh” also translates to the Penton family who bring a younger face to farming.
“We are younger than a lot of farmers,” Rachell, who is in her mid-to-late 30s, said. “I think a lot of people associate farming with an older generation, but we try to involve our whole family in it.”
Scott and Rachell started farming about 14 years ago when they decided to grow peaches, and have gradually expanded into a U-Pick strawberry farm, as well as growing an array of fruits and vegetables.
“We grow just about every kind of vegetable you can think of,” Scott Penton said. “You name it, we grow it.”
The couple’s two children, Austin Penton, 17, and Courtney Penton, 14, also help with daily operations at the farm and are responsible for all of the vegetable picking.
“Everyone has a job, and we really don’t know what we would do without our kids because they help us so much,” Rachell said. “They have grown up helping, and now they will get their friends to come help pick vegetables.”
The family also spends their weeks during the summer attending various farmer’s markets across Alabama.
“Right now, we go to seven markets throughout the week,” Scott said. “It definitely keeps us busy.”
A typical day at the Penton home varies for each family member, but everyone has a different responsibility to help see that the farm operates smoothly.
Scott often wakes up in the early morning hours around 4:30 or 5 a.m. and does not stop working most days until 10 p.m.
Every Saturday, Rachell wakes up at 3:30 a.m. to transport the family’s produce from Verbena to Birmingham for Pepper Place Market.
Austin and Courtney also spend each day making sure the vegetable crops are taken care of, and help their parents by attending other farmer’s markets throughout the week.
“It is hard work, but we all work at it,” Rachell said. “It isn’t easy when the weather is hot outside, but we enjoy working together. It is a family operation for sure.”
Probably the most enjoyable part of the job for the Penton family is the friendly faces they see and interact with at the markets throughout the week.
“I think that is what we love the most,” Rachell said. “We have a lot of returning customers who always stop by and check in with us. Since we have been going to the markets, we have a lot of people who have watched our children grow up. We would take our kids to the markets when they were younger and throughout the years, people who buy from us have seen them grow up. We feel very blessed to have so many returning customers, and we get a blessing from knowing them.”
The Penton family is always working to bring new ideas or farming techniques to Penton Farms.
“We are always studying the newest techniques,” Scott said. “We like to keep up with new approaches.”
Even with the new approaches and techniques, the Penton family agrees one thing will always stay the same: good produce.
“People like to eat what tastes good,” Rachell said. “They enjoy knowing where their food comes from, and who grew it, and we just want to work hard to make sure we are providing them with the quality they want and expect.”
For updates about the strawberry farm, “Sugar Hill U-Pick,” which is typically open from April until the first part of June, visit Sugar Hill U-Pick Farm on Facebook.
The Penton family can also be found at these farmer’s markets throughout the summer and into the early fall:
•Pepper Place Market in Birmingham is open May-October every Saturday from 7 a.m. until noon. The market is open rain or shine and is located at 2829 Second Ave. S. in Birmingham.
•Eastchase Farmers Market in Montgomery is open May 16-Aug. 29 every Saturday from 7 a.m. until noon. The market is located at 7274 Eastchase Parkway.
•Rocky Ridge Church in Hoover every Tuesday from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. The market is located at 2404 Altadena Road in Hoover.
•Cross Creek Community Church Farmer’s Market in Pelham held every Tuesday beginning May 19 from 5:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. The market is held at Crosscreek Baptist Church’s parking lot, 600 Crosscreek Trail in Pelham.
•Linn Place Market located at 20th St. N. at Park Place in Birmingham. The market is held Wednesdays from 8 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.
•The Millbrook Farmer’s Market on the Village Green every Tuesday from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. beginning May 25 and ending August 31.
•The Waters in Pike Road each Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. The Waters is a new home community in Pike Road, located just a few minutes from Montgomery.