A resident of Pine Island who began selling fresh produce from the back of his pickup truck on the island, as well as surrounding areas in 1985, recently opened a new location at the center.
Allan Kuehnemund and his father, Art Kuehnemund, originally from Michigan, were both potato farmers before moving to Florida. Once Art retired, he wanted to continue farming, so he got into produce.
After Art married Beverly Martin, who was a real estate agent with Greider Realty on Pine Island, they decided to reside in Cherry Estates.
Art continued to sell produce from his pickup truck for a few years, before he decided to open a stand in St. James City.
"One day while at his stand, a young girl came by riding her bike and asked Art if he needed any help," Allan said, adding that her name was Barbie Haszinger. "Art and Barbie then continued to work together for the next 20 plus years."
A second location was eventually opened in Bokeelia at Harbor Drive and Pineland.
In 2004, when Hurricane Charley made its way through the island, it destroyed the two produce stands. Allan said local residents and friends of Art and Haszinger came together to help rebuild them for the St. James City and Bokeelia locations.
A few years ago, Art gave the St. James City produce stand to Haszinger because of her loyalty. Allan said she now operates the stand on her own.
"Art still takes Barbie to the Immokalee farmers' market each Wednesday to restock," Allan said.
Art grew some 6,000 sets of Florida sweet onions, as well as tomatoes and peppers for several years near the Bokeelia location. Unfortunately a winter freeze three years ago killed all of his crops and he stopped planting.
"Art now buys fresh produce from local farmers in the Immokalee area and some seasonal tropical fruits here on Pine Island," Allan said.
Now 83 years old, Art has slowed down to working only four days a week instead of seven.
After his wife passed away a few years ago, Allan moved to the area to help his father with the business. When he arrived he began to expand his father's produce business into local Farmers Markets at Lakes Park, Sanibel and Cape Coral. Once the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce opens its market in February, Allan said they will sell produce there as well.
The Bokeelia stand closed last month and a full-time produce store opened at the center next to Subway on Dec. 7. The store is open Tuesday through Sunday and closed on Monday.
Allan said the majority of their seasonal fresh produce is purchased in Immokalee. He said they will also sell seasonal Pine Island produce, such as mangos and avocados, when they are available, as well as honey.
Every two days new fresh produce is brought to the store from the markets. Allan said after a day or two that produce is moved out of the store and sold at the Farmer's Markets in Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Sanibel. The produce that has spots or is soft is donated to the soup kitchens and to the Food Pantry, here on the island.
The produce is sold the same way as the farmer's market, Allan said, which is by the piece or by the bowl. He said their product is pretty much half price of what is found in the stores and fresher.
"I'm not going to gauge anyone," Allan said, adding that he is going to "pass my savings to the customer."
For more information about Art Farm Fresh Produce visit www.artsproduce.com or call 239-634-5352 or 239-823-5214. The store is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.