by Chris Cannon
MT. JULIET, Tenn. – For more than three decades Marie Parrish has sold tomatoes alongside Benders Ferry Road in Mt. Juliet. Tuesday she marked a remarkable milestone in her life.
Over the years, Parrish has become so synonymous with the produce she sells, folks started calling her the “Tomato Lady.”
“I guess people who'd stop here, didn't know my name, so they'd call me Tomato Lady, and it just got going,” said Parrish.
She sells several different types of vegetables at her roadside stand, but tomatoes outsell all the others.
“I think more people eat tomatoes, more than any one thing that is grown,” said Parrish.
She said this summer there is a good crop of tomatoes.
“They have been big and pretty this time. They have done good,” Parrish said.
She first started selling her tomatoes on a table she had in the front yard. Then, 25 years ago she had a friend build her an actual stand, and her farm-to-table business has been going strong ever since then.
“I've been doing it so long, it just feels like a part of me,” Parrish said. “I have been blessed. I'm still up and going, and I am very thankful.”
Tuesday when customers stopped by the stand, they noticed more than just tomatoes and peppers. There was a big bouquet of balloons out front, marking a major milestone for Parrish.
“My birthday. 90! 90!,” Parrish said with a smile.
The Tomato Lady, who grows everything she sells, is older than most of us, and she has no plans on stopping what she has done for so many years.
“I love it, and that's my thing. I just love to do it,” said Parrish.
Her customers have become very loyal. Some of them have no problem driving a long distance to get what Parrish sells.
“We're about 30 miles from here, so we stop here, we know it’s home grown - good tomatoes and produce,” said customer Gary Tarpley.
If you drive Benders Ferry Road, there is a good chance you will see the Tomato Lady at her stand, but if you do not, you can still stop. She sells her produce on the honor system, so you can get those tomatoes whenever you want.