Farm-Fresh In Bellevue
At Bluebird Produce you can get the freshest vegetables in Bellevue directly from the man who grows them—Daryl Callahan of Hanover County. He nurtures every plant that bears its summer bounty of squash and okra, cucumbers and tomatoes. Every Saturday from 10-4 he sets up a tent and vegetable stand on the parking lot of Once Upon A Vine on MacArthur Avenue. And as the season progresses Bluebird Produce will expand its days of operation in the Bellevue.
Daryl grows about 700 tomato plants, 150 squash plants, okra, potatoes (the best I’ve ever eaten; they’re even good raw), peppers, cucumbers and tomatillos. And he grows it all on about one acre of fertile soil just off Georgetown Road. “I’d have to hire help if I got any bigger,” Daryl tells me as he weighs a bag full of colorful tomatoes for a customer who stands in front of me.
As the customers leaves with change and three bags of fresh produce, Daryl arranges tomatoes that range in colors from red to orange and yellow, large tomatoes with shapes as varied as their hues. “I have a small operation,” he tells me. “I specialize in heirloom tomatoes as well as hybrid tomatoes and other produce. I also do the New Highland Baptist Farmers’ Market on New Ashcake Road up in Hanover from 3:30 to 7:30 on Wednesdays.”
A painter and carpenter by trade (among other things he refurbished a wooden roller coaster at King’s Dominion), Daryl grew up over in Stratford Hills and for many years he and his wife Robin lived on Laburnum Avenue. “I’ve got deep ties to the North Side,” he says. “I played softball for Cock and Bull (the honky-tonk on MacArthur Avenue that most recently housed Shenanigans) and Dot’s. I know everybody right around the North Side.”
Daryl farms for the pure pleasure of it all. “It keeps the wolves away,” he says. “I just like doing it and fortunately the wife’s got a good enough job to let me do what I want to do.”
The prices at Bluebird are extremely reasonable. Right now the heirloom tomatoes are fetching $2.75 a pound and the hybrids cost $2.00 a pound.
Here’s the nice thing about Bluebird Produce: you can talk directly with the farmer, the man who tends the fields, who’s planted the tomatoes and weeded the beds. All the produce here is local, grown about ten miles away. And the hand that returns your change to you is the hand that plucked the tomatoes from their umbilical vines.
Parking lot of Once Upon A Vine