Traveling down West Meyer Road in Wentzville you can’t miss the big American flag mounted on the barn-red produce stand welcoming passers by.
In their second season, the Cummings’ family own and operate Lil’ Shack, brimming with countless varieties of homegrown fruit and vegetables.
The business is booming compared to last year.
“We had never done anything like this before,” the Cummings said.
A concrete foreman for J. H. Berra, Jimmy ran a paving crew for 28 years. Mary worked in food service at the Wentzville School District. Now retired, they needed an outlet for their energy.
To prepare for their new venture, the couple attended a small farmer’s convention at the Boone County Fairgrounds in Columbia, MO. They asked questions and spoke to farmers about raising crops.
The couple visited Amish farmer, Norman Kilmer, owner of Morgan Company Seeds LLC, and learned first-hand the soil nutrients necessary to grow healthy plants.
Last year they planted and hand-watered more than 500 tomato and pepper plants, as well as green beans. This year, the Cummings installed a drip-system (a flat vinyl hose with holes) that runs alongside the plants. This frees up time to attend to their 30-something varieties of plants and vegetables. They water twice daily. Jimmy tends to the garden from early morning until early afternoon.
He uses Masterblend premium fertilizer 4-18-38 ‘tomato special’ on the tomatoes and peppers, and alternates with calcium every other week to prevent ‘blossom-end rot’. Cummings repeats the process throughout the growing season.
Tomato varieties include cherry, two ounce, Big Boy, Big Beef, Roma, Orange Blossom and Cherokee. Green, red, and yellow peppers plus hot pepper varieties, jalapeño and habanero also grow in the garden.
Thankful for repeat customers, the family's business grows by word of mouth. Their daughter Jamie brings in customers by distributing flyers around the area.
Mindy and Dan Jones enjoy visiting Lil’ Shack because, “It’s close to where we live, and convenient.” They love the tomatoes and the peaches.
One customer rave is the ¾-acre tract of garden visible from the road that surrounds Lil’ Shack. Customers love seeing the plants and vegetables growing in the field.
Another customer favorite is Mary’s colorful basket collection – over 125 of them – that brighten Lil’ Shack with cheer.
Cummings says, “I had all this space on the rafters, and I wanted a good country look.” Initially, she didn’t plan to sell the baskets, but customers changed her mind.
The Cummings supplement the fruit and vegetable stand with Amish produce, as well as other grower's produce in the area.
The Cummings work as a family in a comfortable, country atmosphere. Days are long, but a constant breeze helps move air through the barn-like structure.
Lil’ Shack is located at 1800 West Meyer Road, Wentzville, MO Hours are Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m.-2 p.m.