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Beloved farm’s future unknown

A farm stand beloved by Matthews residents may have to decrease its production in the next year, due to the death of the man in charge, James Grier.

“Farmer Grier,” 81, devoted hundreds of hours to running his 10-acre farm next to his house on Sardis Road near N.C. 51. He died June 13 in Matthews, where he has lived all of his life.

Grier opened the farm stand when he retired in 1993, and used working on the farm and eating its crops as a way to recover from a heart attack.

David Blackley, who owns Renfrow Hardware in Matthews, said he met Grier when he first began selling vegetables. Grier was always willing to listen to the latest growing tips and share his own.

The stand, which is now decorated in his memory, has more than 100 customers on a typical Friday, and sometimes even more than 200, said Lynn Ollis, Grier’s daughter. The stand is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Grier was famous among residents for his tomatoes and the “Honey Select Super Sweet Yellow” corn.

Linda Sorkin, who lives in Matthews, said she has been going to the stand for years to buy Grier’s produce, especially the corn. She said he always had a story to tell and gave her advice on starting a blueberry farm in her backyard.

She said his growing tactics, such as the insulated water tepees he used to protect his crops from insects and the cold, were innovative.

“They did everything right over there,” Sorkin said.

Ollis, who lives in Stallings, said her father would work tirelessly to make sure the farm was in perfect condition to grow the plethora of crops sold, including potatoes, peanuts, onions, squash and corn.

Ollis and her husband, Andy, are now in charge of the farm, and she said they are still deciding on its future. “The fall crops have been ordered, so we have till the end of the year,” she said. “If we do it next year it will be on a smaller scale.”

Blackley said the farm stand adds to the Matthews community.

“It was so good that people who grow a lot of vegetables would still buy from him,” he said. “It looks so pretty, when you drive by you can’t resist.”

Sorkin also said the community loved Grier’s family farm. “He was Farmer Dale around here. People appreciated it; you can’t find these crops in a farmers’ market.”

Ollis said though there were some volunteers who helped run the farm, few were able to put in the amount of time that her father did.

“You don’t find a lot of people who want to do what we do on a daily basis,” she said. “It’s a seven-day, 12-to-14-hour-a-day thing.”

This year has been particularly bad for weeds and grass, adding to the difficulty of running the farm, she said.

Ollis said her father began working on the farm before sunrise each day, and stayed working till late at night.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “It’s a big task to do it the way Daddy always did it.”

Albright: 704-578-7075
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