When fresh produce royalty Becky Polk tagged me on Facebook, I knew this was my summons to attend their annual Spring Fling in Pooler on April 15. Cruising up to their U.S. Hwy 80 location, I see cars parked along the highway and manage to squeeze my big jolly green giant Jeep up beside the Boston-butt smoker.
Telling my Jefferson County home girl Cindy Nipper Davis that I am going to be a while, I follow my nose over to the smoker to give Becky’s oldest son Wesley a hug. Telling me that his wife Hollie is here with his newborn baby Ivy, I promise to grab a family pic after I locate his mom.
Weaving through gorgeous plants and tropical flowers, I find Becky behind the counter checking out a line of customers that reaches back into the vegetable room. Yelling when she sees me, Becky sprints over for a fierce hug before we are interrupted by Spiderman.
Yes, Spiderman aka Caleb Hutchison is in town for the festival and is running back and forth delivering boiled peanuts scooped up by John Wesley Bickley. The 16-year-old dudes tell me that they grew up with the Polks and were happy to volunteer for today’s event. Then they graciously do a mini video clip for my WSAV segment “Where’s Bunny Ware”.
While I am chatting with the youngsters, I hear someone say, “Bunny? Bunny Ware?” Standing in line is Sherri Harper or Sherri Shurling from our days at Georgia Southern University. I haven’t seen her since ‘88 and after hugging her and learning that she is right down the road in Stilson, I made a mental note to track down more of my GSU college friends to catch up.
Out in the busy plant section, I find Annette Youmans walking by with two bags overflowing with veggies from her weekly Polk’s Plus run. Behind her in a tent with a sign that reads Crazy Nay’s Gourmet Kitchen, I find three sisters and a nephew giving out samples of the best pimento cheese in the South!
Meet Renee “Crazy Nay” Newsome and her sisters, Gloria Gould, Nook Deason and 15-year-old nephew Ryan Brunson. Proud to see that this is a family affair, I take a seat to talk with the Savannah native but now Baxley resident about how she has incorporated her mother’s recipe into a successful business.
“During COVID, I was caretaking my mom when I got a call from a local produce stand telling me that they lost their pimento cheese supplier. Tweaking my mom’s recipe by adding a little heat, I added chicken salad and a redneck caviar to my lineup and now have a six-county client list,” shares Renee.
Fast forward a few years and this scrumptious pimento cheese placed in the top three of the Flavor of Georgia Competition for the University of Georgia!
Back inside the produce room, I ask for photo volunteers and meet Guyton resident Jamie Belcourt with Ellabel residents Brandie Degnan and Stephanie Wilson then Tonya Bashlor, a tiny lady from Stilson and a relative of Becky’s. Wearing a large hat that hides her hair, Tonya tells me that she beat breast cancer and is going to who0p pancreatic cancer.
After Becky comes out from behind the counter to hug Tonya, she stops to grab a bite of fresh-cut watermelon and tells me to grab a pulled pork dinner. I’m too busy eyeballing the pound cakes to slow down for a full meal so I head outside to catch up with all the vendors in the parking lot.
I knew it! The first person I see is Vickie Godbee! Remembering when I met Vickie back in her banking days, I have followed her and her husband Harry on Facebook, seeing her selling wine bottles filled with night lights in every size, design and college team at festivals like today. Asking how Harry is doing, I give her a hug and head over to The Sweet Lavender Bakery’s Lenique Harris.
While trying to decide between the orange creamsicle cookies, strawberry crunch cake and cookies and cream dippers, I hear Becky’s husband, Ray yelling at me to come over and meet his old boss from Savannah Sugar aka Dixie Crystal. Say hey to Eddie Cox and his wife Debbie. The Cams Concepts metal art and powder coating couple tell me about their CNC plasma table, living in Port Wentworth and a lifetime of welding.
After posing the chill couple with a "Welcome Home" cut out, I say hey to "Oh Snap Julia’s Crafts'" Julia Wilcox, pose cute couple Benjamin and Jessica Homan, then grab a chair to hear about the Wright’s Family Homestead. Leaving Arizona in December 2020, Lela and George Wright took on everything from canning jams, jellies and salsas to woodworking using recycled oak, pine, cedar and mahogany.
With George retired from respiratory therapy and Lela still working as a nurse, the couple have a mini-farm complete with peacocks, rabbits, chickens, goats, turkeys, a duck and a donkey. Sweet baby build an ark! Where do they put all of these animals?!
Making a lap back through, I hear Becky yell “Five dollars,” to Superman for another bag of fresh green boiled peanuts, then she exits the counter.
“Bunny let me show you the latest pic we found. When the old Ellis Square Market was torn down in 1954, Daddy moved from his truck to a store on the corner of St. Julian and Montgomery, which is now Vinnie Van Go-Go’s. This picture is of H. Polk's Produce during its forty years at that location.”
With over 70 years of providing healthy food for families, spotlighting local farmers and keeping the words “fresh produce” in their heritage, Becky and her family are not just my family, they are the entire community’s family. Now at 13 years at this Pooler location with her son Barry doing Polk's Go produce delivery boxes, Becky is becoming what her daddy Hezekiah was, a local legend! We love you Becky!