While many in the area have enjoyed the fresh, locally grown produce from Airport Gardens for years - purchasing it at area farmers markets - buying it over the counter almost next to the field is now an option.
Owner Jim Donnelly opened the small round-roofed store about a month ago.
"We have so much stuff to sell," he said, "It's much more than last year."
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Airport Gardens owner Jim Donnelly, left, and Ruth Auten, look over some fresh tomatoes recently in their recently opened retail location at 1557 Nelson Ave. just north of Fort Dodge. The store is open on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 2:30 to 6 p.m. They also sell at area farmers markets and Market on Central.
What's on the shelf and in the cooler ?
Donnelly stocks whatever is currently ripening in the field, there are plenty of juicy watermelons and lots of tomatoes.
Ruth Auten works in the store. She enjoys her work and says it offers two things to their customers.
"It's good and it's convenient," she said.
She likes meeting the customers too.
"You meet so many neat people here," she said.
She might share a bit more than tips on how tell a ripe watermelon from a not-ready one too.
"I get all sorts of recipes," she said. "I give out a few I know, too."
Donnelly listed several advantages to buying locally grown produce. He said that in addition to supporting a local business, the product is picked ripe and does not have to be transported over long distances. He said that commercially grown tomatoes trucked in from other parts of the country are bred to have a tougher skin to survive the truck trip and are turned red with a gas.
The distance from his field, to the store is about 200 yards.
"When they buy from us," he said, "They're less than 5 days old."
His daughter in-law Chris Connelly helps out with much of the work on the farm.
"We pick every day," she said, "By the weekend it's time to start over at the other end."
During the off season, she's a school teacher.
"My summer is totally different than the rest of my year," she said.
She's also proud of the freshness and quality.
"Five days is considered old," she said.
Ruth Auten is fond of the locally grown produce too.
"You can tell the difference," she said.
Airport Gardens retail location is at 1557 Nelson Ave., just north of the Fort Dodge Regional Airport. They are open on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 2:30 to 6 p.m. They also attend the Fort Dodge Farmers Market on Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning and with the Rockwell City Market on Thursday, Eagle Grove on Friday and the biweekly Market on Central in downtown Fort Dodge.
Connelly said that he's currently offering boxes of tomatoes for canning and making salsa and that later in the season, "Our squash crop is going to be something."
Customers can reach him at 290-3374 to order boxes of the tomatoes.
They are so good, Connelly said, he uses them as currency to pay Auten for her work.
"I give her a tomato," he said - and yes, he was kidding.