Ferrell’s adds plants, adopts food-stamp program

Posted 3/11/19

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris FelkerJason Ferrell and his son, Ledger, were on hand to let the community know last week that they’ve added a selection of live flowering plants and herbs to the …

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Ferrell’s adds plants, adopts food-stamp program

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker
Jason Ferrell and his son, Ledger, were on hand to let the community know last week that they’ve added a selection of live flowering plants and herbs to the Ferrell’s Market on State Road 78 West.

OKEECHOBEE — You can’t miss the pop of color amid all the greenery along the northern edge of Lake O just southwest of town, announcing cheerily that Ferrell’s Market now carries live plants and garden supplies.

Jason Ferrell was there this week to welcome the delivery folks and set up the new offerings outside his fresh produce stand on State Road 78 just west of the light at U.S. 441/98. He and his wife, Denise, are continuing to expand their operations in town and now are focusing on this location.

Their main market is at 820 N.W. Park St., on State Road 70 kitty corner from Eli’s Western Wear. “My family’s been here since 1958. This market has been here since 1999. This is our 20th year in business right here,” he said with pride as his young son chattered with customers and workers nearby.

“So you finally decided to get some plants!!”

“We’ve kind of been toying around with the idea for a few years. I bought that place uptown and expanded real hard about five years ago, and I’m just now catching my breath,” said Mr. Ferrell. I bought the whole city block up there, and then about three years in, we started doing well, so I opened up a butcher shop. We make our own sausages, and we do a lot of (business) ... and it’s a lot for me and my wife, Denise, to handle. It’s just she and I running the show,” he said, explaining that she wasn’t present at the moment: “She’s out there giving an airboat ride.” They also run the Eagle Bay Airboat Rides & Tours business at the SR 78 location.

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker
One of the deliverers stands behind part of the selection of live plants and herbs that Ferrell’s will carry at its store south of town.

Reining in son Ledger, Mr. Ferrell said: “We have three; he is the youngest. They pretty much stay with me until they go to school. So this is our third one, and he’s getting ready to go to school next year. I grew up on a dairy farm right across the street. And when I was young, that’s what I did, I went with my dad. We don’t have the dairy farm anymore, but I always kind of felt like, hey, that was the best part of my life. I want my kids to enjoy their time with me. So we try to keep our kids with us as much as we can.”

Asked if he was planning to branch out into landscaping, as well, he replied, “Well, I mean, when you’re an entrepreneur there’s ... nothing you can’t do!”

He’s hoping that the suddenly attractive entrance to the produce stand where a concrete apron used to sit empty will get more people to stop in off SR 78, just seeing the burst of color while driving by on an otherwise bland road.

“This area of town has been my second for the last couple of years because it’s been kind of stale. I’ve been here 20 years, I’ve grown as hard as I could grow, so I focused a little bit up there, and now we’ve got some growth going on here,” Mr. Ferrell said.

He was excited to relay some news also about a program now available to his customers that he’s been working on for some time. His assistant, B.J., produced a card telling about the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and its Green Coin spin-off, offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s a new offering available to all food-stamp recipients.

Mr. Ferrell explained that “if someone comes in with food stamps, we match, dollar for dollar, and give them local produce. It has to be local, but they get their local produce for free. It’s a program that I’ve had trouble getting started.”

A key thing is communication, letting people know about it.

“Okeechobee is a food desert, and we have obesity problems in kids in school,” he said. “That’s why we qualify for the free lunch program for all children. With that being said, Brian Sell of the (Okeechobee County) Health Department pushed real hard for the program to get here.” Mr. Sell no longer works with them, though, and Mr. Ferrell said he’s trying to get him to work with him on these USDA-financed initiatives.

At Ferrell’s, he said, “Our next step is going to be a cooking class. We’re going to teach these people how to go ... buy red meat, enough for two weeks, and then get all their vegetables for free.”

The card, he said, was “a five-dollar free coupon for anybody that uses food stamps. They ... show their food stamp card, they get $5 for free. And for free, they can buy anything locally produced.”