Seminole church partners with Lakeland farm for drive-thru fresh food market

There is another option for Seminole residents that don’t want to brave the grocery stores during the coronavirus pandemic. The Seminole United Methodist Church teamed up with Oponay Farms to create a drive-thru, farm-fresh, food market.

Lewis King owns Oponay Farms in Lakeland. They usually do u-pick blueberries, but because of COVID-19 regulations, they had to make some changes. They now have a drive-thru sales model.

“When we started picking our blueberries it was when this pandemic started, so everybody was scared to go to the grocery store for the first few weeks,” King explained. “These are perishable commodities, they are never going to hang out for weeks. We’ve probably picked 50 percent of the berries we normally would, so that’s what kind of engaged into getting into the retail side.”

When one of King’s regular customers told him about the church wanting to help their large elderly population in the congregation, he reached out.

Jack Johnson with SUMCH said this is a great way to help the community and the farms.

“They had extra crops they wanted to get rid of,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of older people within our church, as well as our community. So we stepped in to help them out so they wouldn’t have to go to the supermarkets and get exposed.”

When people come to the market, they are given a paper with the products available and the prices. After placing an order, volunteers pack up the food and place it in the customer’s car.

The market usually serves between 150-200 cars and is open every Wednesday from noon to 6 at the Seminole United Methodist Church, located at 5400 Seminole Blvd, Seminole, FL 33772. They accept cash and checks. No credit cards.

Both King and Johnson agree this business venture is helping everyone involved.

“It’s a win for the farmers. It’s a win for the people, and it’s a win for the church,” Johnson said.

King added, “The community support has been overwhelming. We had no idea we would have this kind of support. As long as we can source quality stuff, we are going to be here.”