BOGUE — Despite extreme flooding and damage to her home and produce stand from Hurricane Florence, Sherry Guthrie, owner of Guthrie Farm Produce, was determined to open her stand for the summer season.
Thanks to her faith and support from other county farmers, family and friends, Ms. Guthrie was able to open the popular stand, famous for Bogue Sound watermelons, in time for Memorial Day, the official start of the summer tourism season.
“This stand has been here for over 40 years. This is what I’ve known and this is what I do,” Ms. Guthrie, 67, said last week as she helped two of her granddaughters stock fresh produce in the wooden bins that sit under the large canopy familiar to travelers along Highway 24.
Ms. Guthrie said thanks to help from another local farmer, Herbert Page, she was able to get the Bogue Sound melons, known for their sweet flavor, planted in the fields, but they won’t be ready until the Fourth of July. In the meantime, other fresh produce, such as sweet potatoes, tomatoes and collards, fills the bins.
She was quick to say she always tries to keep fresh, local produce available, but when it’s not yet in season in the county she ships fresh vegetables in from other locations.
“I am very big on fresh, local produce and seeing people eat healthy,” she said.
Her passion for carrying on the legacy of her late husband, Billie Guthrie, who founded the Bogue Sound Watermelon Growers Association, is another driving force that helps the determined grandmother and her family persevere through the challenges small family farmers face.
While she’s overcome many things, including her home flooding during four previous hurricanes, nothing prepared her for the hard hit of Hurricane Florence, which devastated the county and southeastern North Carolina Sept. 13-14, bringing historic flooding and wind damage.
All told, 28 inches of water came into her home, which sits near Bogue Sound, and she estimates 5 feet of marsh water flooded her property.
She evacuated to her mother’s house in Broad Creek prior to the storm and packed some of her belongings into a trailer. However, there was a leak in the trailer so she lost many of her household and personal items.
While she has insurance and received help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, she has a long way to go before she will be able to move back into her house. She’s applied for a hazard mitigation grant to have her house raised, but has not heard whether she will qualify.
Immediately following the storm, she moved in with one of her daughters, who lives near her mother on the 60-acre farm.
“We had five adults and four dogs living in a mobile home,” she said. “I was grateful to have a place to stay.”
After applying to FEMA, the agency offered to provide her a camper, which they moved onto her land near her home. She’s not certain how much longer she will be able to keep the camper.
Ms. Guthrie said thanks to help from other county farmers, along with her family and friends, she has been able to continue working.
“I have a wonderful family and friends. We have to help each other. The other farmers have been a blessing to me and I try to be a blessing to them,” she said. “I could not imagine what it would be like if
Guthrie Farms had not opened.”
Customers shopping for fresh produce last week at the stand said they, too, could not imagine the county without the popular landmark.
“I know it would be devastating for them and it would be devastating for us,” Jim Higdon of Morehead City said as he shopped for vegetables. “I know of only two produce markets in this area and it’s good to know it’s still here.”
Ms. Guthrie admits farming can be a hard life, but it’s also rewarding.
“This is my life, whether it’s good or bad, this is my life. I love to see people come by and purchase healthy food,” she said.
With her late husband a third generation farmer, Ms. Guthrie said the love for farming has passed on to a new generation.
Some of her grandchildren have started their own organic, hydroponic farming business, The Farm of Bogue.
“They’ve repurposed one of our old greenhouses and are growing their own vegetables using hydroponics. We’re selling some of their produce at our market,” Ms. Guthrie said.
One of her granddaughters, Ashelyn Ramsey, said she and her siblings were raised helping their grandparents on the farm.
“Poppa (the late Mr. Guthrie) was an amazing farmer and an amazing person,” Ms. Ramsey said. “We want to get back in touch with that. It’s our heritage and our culture. If we don’t grow the food, who will? If there aren’t farmers, there will be no food.”
Granddaughter Bert Hadden agreed, adding that she’s passionate about making sure people eat healthy food.
“We want to provide sustainable, nutritious food to the community. We want to be a part of helping people know where their food is coming from and hopefully they’ll teach their children about eating responsibly, too,” Ms. Hadden said.
As for Ms. Guthrie, she said she’s proud of her family and hopes she has set a good example of faith, especially during the tough times, for her children and grandchildren to follow.
“I do a lot of praying,” she said. “I’ve had some anxious moments, but I know that God has always been there and I can trust him.”
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.