CHARLESTON, W.Va. - In the summer months produce vendors are a common sight on the sides of West Virginia roads.
Across the state, small-time farmers can be found offering a wide variety of summertime produce out of the backs of pick-up trucks and on top of folding tables set up under brightly colored canopies.
Produce stands are largely family-owned and operated. For their owners they represent an opportunity: The seasonal business comes with little startup cost and a decent profit potential because fresh, in-season vegetables are always in demand.
For customers, the benefits are a fresh alternative to supermarkets. In many instances, buying from a roadside vendor is a way to support local farmers and to know exactly where the food on their family's plates is coming from.
Craig High has been selling produce along U.S. 60 in St. Albans for 21 years.
Six days a week from the beginning of July through late August, High can be spotted under his red-and-white-striped tent, just off to right of the road as you enter the city limits from the west. Most days he's there setting up just before 11 a.m. and starts to pack up around 5 p.m.
He's a full-time employee of Gritt's Farm in Buffalo, and operates its only roadside stand in the state. The farm also sells its produce at the Capitol Market in Charleston and does retail and wholesale business around the state, selling vegetable plants and flowers for farm and consumer use.
High said on an average afternoon, he serves several hundred customers. His business is a combination of repeat customers and those who decide to stop off spontaneously. Many of his regular customers are retirees who stop by early. Business picks up again as people head home from work.
Currently High's stand only accepts cash and personal checks, but he said he is looking to add the ability to take credit and debit card purchases with a smartphone in the near future.
He said the stand's prices are consistent with grocery stores around the Kanawha Valley, but he offers customers a greater variety of options - and the advantage of freshness.
"It's easy to buy off a big box store," he said. "But when you do that, you just get whatever they want you to have. Sometimes its good quality, sometimes its not and you don't ever really know where the money goes."
Marian Miles of St. Albans said she and her husband always make a point of buying their produce from High's stand.
"We've been doing this for quite a few years," she said "He's got the best corn; we love it."
Miles and her husband try to patronize local businesses as often as possible and she said that plays a large role in deciding where they shop.