By: Lisa Bicknell
The COVID-19 pandemic was not the reason Stevie Tipton and Tera Hardy decided to open a produce stand, but as the pandemic unfolded, it became clear that the time was right.
Back in January, Tipton had gone south for a fishing trip, and he saw someone selling a truck load of tomatoes by the road.
Tera, his girlfriend, said he wondered if he could make some extra money if he brought fresh field grown tomatoes back to Kentucky.
He decided to give it a try and learned that there was indeed a craving for tomatoes in Estill County. It wasn’t long until he was driving south for another load. Then folks started requesting other produce items.
And so a business was born—they call it “Mountain Adventures.” Tipton and Hardy set up a produce stand on Cow Creek and started posting what they had for sale on Facebook. They were open almost every day except when they were traveling to Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina—wherever the produce is freshest—to stock back up.
When the pandemic arrived and things started shutting down in March, Tera volunteered to be one of the first laid off from her job at the Steam Engine Pizza Pub. She has young children to help with virtual learning and working the produce stand gave her more flexibility to be with her kids.
Meanwhile, grocery stores were running short on a lot of supplies.
Requests for fruits, vegetables, dry beans and other bulk items continued to grow.
All summer long Mountain Adventures sold bananas, tomatoes, green beans, melons and many other types of produce.
When Estill County gardens started producing, sometimes over-producing, Tera and Stevie began to also buy from local farmers.
Then they had opportunity to move their business to town.
A couple of weeks ago, Mountain Adventures opened at the former site of Melvin Wiseman’s gas station, across from the Twin.
While work continues inside the building, the produce stand has been set up outside. Tera is hopeful they will be able to move indoors in a couple of weeks.
Once they are open inside, she hopes they can offer an even greater variety of produce. She has hopes that the building will eventually be equipped with a kitchen, and they will be able to sell baked goods and coffee.
Tera wants to see everyone succeed. Last weekend, 2 Farms Meet, a homegrown business that sells locally raised and butchered meat, set up in the Mountain Adventures parking lot.
Mountain Adventures also hopes to host pop-up farmers’ markets in the future, featuring Estill County produce.
“We want everyone to make it,” Tera said.
She dreams of one day having a Kentucky Proud store, and being able to focus entirely on Kentucky grown produce and other items.
“We love our town—and our state,” she said.
Mountain Adventures is currently open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. They also do wholesale orders for restaurants and stores or for people looking to can. For more information, call 606-975-0477.
Tera Hardy and her son Dalton Carpenter, with Amanda Kirby.