Life on 99: Country Farms Produce Market a home-grown business
Here’s another in our ongoing series of profiles of Edmonds’ many Highway 99 businesses.
By Allison Pascoe
You might say that Rod Waters literally grew up at the Country Farms Produce Market on the corner of Highway 99 and 228th Street Southwest. The son of Jay Waters, who started Country Farms in Edmonds in 1960, the younger Waters was an entrepreneur and a part of the market at a very early age.
“When I was 4 or 5, I’d get some stuff and then set up my own little market in the parking lot, which didn’t last too long because people would buy stuff off of me for cheaper than what my Dad had it for,” Waters recalled.
Waters recalls getting his first job at the market when he was 5 or 6. He would repair the wooden boxes that the produce was delivered in and earn a nickel for each one he had fixed. Then his father would sell them back to the growers for a quarter a piece.
At around age 10, Waters began working on the retail end. “Back in those days, you had to know how to count money back so I got pretty good at math,” he said.
By the time he was 18, he was delivering produce to other Country Farms locations and after a year or two began taking longer trips and driving semi-trucks. Then he became a produce buyer, explaining that it became a challenge between him and his father as to who could find the best prices for each product. Eventually he took over the operation of the markets, which include in addition to Edmonds locations in Everett, Burlington and Lake Steven.
Depending on the time of the year, all of the produce is grown in Washington, California, Arizona and Baja, Mexico. “We have our own semi-trucks,” Waters said, which are used to pick up the produce from where it is grown and then deliver it to each Country Farm location.
When shopping for produce, Waters said, the biggest mistake is when “people buy with their eyes.” For example, customers often believe that vine tomatoes are a better choice than beefsteak tomatoes. “The inside of vine tomatoes is really watery and seedy and runs out when you cut it,” Waters said. “What sells it is that vine because it looks fresher when it is attached to the vine and twice as expensive as a regular beefsteak tomato. Flavor-wise, beefsteak is better.”
The same goes for apricots, he said noting that the Goldridge variety may look enormous and be a nice gold color, but the smaller Tilton apricots have the better taste.
Country Farms is only a produce market from April to November. “It’s a little bit different lifestyle,” Waters said, explaining that throughout the produce season most employees work six days a week and then have time off in November. Then, just after Thanksgiving, the markets are transformed into Christmas tree lots.
Besides having Christmas trees, Country Farms is able to give the trees a little more festive flare with custom flocking. “So if you want a blue tree, a pink tree, or a purple tree, we can do it,” he said. Waters and his employees have come up with some unusual creations while flocking trees. “One lady wanted a wreath and a tree painted Seahawk colors, which was kind of cool too,” he said.
The market is open from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. For more information, call 425-774-3463.