What started out as strictly business for Danny Bishop – making runs to Amish country in Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky for produce to sell at his shop in Fort Oglethorpe – has turned into much more.
Bishop recently returned from Indiana, his tractor trailer loaded with Amish pumpkins, gourds and other products.
"You pull up to the Amish farm," says Bishop, "and the horse-drawn wagons start coming in from the field, full of pumpkins, vegetables, fruit. Everyone helps load the produce onto the truck, including women and children."
As the Amish farmers load, says Bishop, they sing. "The harmony is just incredible. You never heard anything like it. They sing religious songs, folk songs, popular country songs. Sometimes they even yodel."
And when the work is all done, there's the home-cooked food. "There's always at least a snack after we finish loading," says Bishop,
"cinnamon buns, peach pie, coffee. Just when you think you've had their best food, they bring out something better."
Over the years, Bishop has developed friendships with the Amish farmers he buys from. "At first, I went to the Amish markets. I got to know some of the farmers and started going directly to their farms to buy, and from there, we just became friends."
Bishop and his family have been invited to attend Amish weddings. "Weddings are a big deal with the Amish," he says. "The whole community comes out. To get ready, they'll move 40 or 50 wood stoves into a common building – one of their huge workshops, and the women will make hundreds of pies and cakes."
One year, Bishop's brother went with him and took his guitar along. "We had a great time. Some of our Amish friends had never seen a guitar played in person and they loved it."
Business with the Amish has turned into a two-way street for Bishop. He looks for old farm equipment to take to the Old Order communities that live without electricity. They also like cast iron and stainless steel cookware, he says.
And the Amish have learned that Bishop is always on the lookout for antiques. "One day I had left a farm in my huge truck and I looked in my rearview and saw a man in a horse and buggy chasing me down. He was waving and shouting, so I pulled over." The farmer had a load of old blue glass canning jars he'd been saving for Bishop's visit.
Bishop's Amish pumpkins at Picker's Produce across from the post office in Fort Oglethorpe boast beautiful thick stems up to a foot long. "The farmers cut the pumpkins from the vines then let them sit in the field for a week so the stems can dry out."
The pumpkins and other produce come from towns with names like Shipshewana, Mishawaka and Wakarusa in Indiana, and Hopkinsville in Kentucky. Bishop makes many trips a year to buy from the Amish farmers in the towns.
Picker's Produce carries other Amish products, too, including butter, bacon, cheese, candy, and jams and jellies with names like F-R-O-G, Traffic Jam, and Scuppernong Jelly, as well as the more familiar blueberry, blackberry and plum jams and apple and peach butter. They also carry a line of Amish relishes and pickled asparagus, beets, okra and eggs.
Anyone who has visited an Amish farm might see a similarity beyond produce to Picker's in Fort Oglethorpe – things like going the extra mile for customers, commitment to quality and old-fashioned friendliness.
"Our customers know Echota, the girl who's been managing the store," says Bishop. "She's moving onto other things in life, and my son John has been taking over. He's our new manager.
"John has already become a favorite with our lady customers who love to cook," says Bishop. "They bring him pies, preserves, all sorts of stuff."
For John's part, he cares about his customers. "We try to make shopping here as convenient as possible for people," he says. "I have customers who will come early and pick out what they want, then I'll refrigerate it for them till they get off work and can pick it up."
John says he also has customers who call and order by phone, then pick up their already prepared order. "They can even honk their horn and I can take it out to their car for them."
Picker's Produce is stocked full for the fall season with pumpkins, mums, straw and fall fruits and vegetables, and they plan to have Christmas trees again after Thanksgiving.
Picker's Produce is located at 4 Forrest Road near the Fort Oglethorpe post office. Picker's accepts EBT and credit and debit card payments, as well as old-fashioned cash. The store is open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Picker's Produce can be contacted at 706-944-4193 or 423-718-4167. Picker's can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Pickers-Produce.
Two men accused of raping a teenage girl in late 2015 pleaded guilty to lesser charges of sexual battery in Catoosa County Superior Court last week and now face a year in prison.
Destin Lamar Noble, 19, and Brett Leland Hardy, 20, were arrested in May 2016 after being indicted by a Catoosa County grand jury amidst allegations they supplied a teen under 16 years of age with alcohol during a get-together at a house on Holcomb Road in Ringgold and sexually assaulted her.
The men were 17 and 18 at the time of the incident and faced charges of rape, aggravated child molestation, and furnishing alcohol to a minor.
According to Superior Court, both pleaded to one count each of sexual battery and have been sentenced to five years; one to be served in prison, and the other four on probation.
Hardy entered his plea Friday, Sept. 8, and reported to the Catoosa County jail on Monday, Sept. 11, while Noble entered his plea Sept. 11 and is slated to report to jail on Sept. 18.
18. Noble's involvement in the crime garnered a lot of community support in his defense, as he was a popular student and cheerleading instructor at the time.
Neither defendant's attorney could be reached for comment regarding the decision to enter plea bargains, but Noble, who now uses his middle name on Facebook, did post about his decision.
"People will always think what they want," he wrote. "Always. When you have a life to consider, a family, a career. You make decisions. The fools that are talking nonsense, know none of the truth, and hardly any of the facts. I made my decision based on what's best for my life. I wasn't taking a chance on going on trial for something I didn't do and facing a minimum of 25 years to life, with no chance of parole. I plead to reduced charges,
because that's how court works! They bring you deals, they offer state recommendations---& with what I've dealt with for the past two years, I'm ready for this chapter to come to a close. My side of the story will come out, in the right time and in the right way. For those of you who continue to love and support me, thank you. For those who continue to pray, thank you. For those who want to act foolish and talk out the end where poop comes out, remember first and foremost; you aren't my judge."
The Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce took time last week to recognize the community's finest as it held a special Networking at Lunch event to honor the top police officers and firemen in the county.
The event, held Thursday, Sept. 14, included the presentation of awards for the officers and firemen of the year for their respective agencies.
Deputy Marvin Clay Thompson took home the award for Officer of the Year for the Catoosa County Sheriff's Department, Assistant Chief Chad Cardin for the Ringgold Police Department, and Lt. John McGrath for the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department. On the fire and rescue front, Lt. Chris McCormack was named Fireman of the Year for the Catoosa County Fire Department, while Terry W. Warnix was honored with the same award for the Fort Oglethorpe Fire Department.
"It was a great event," said Amy Jackson, membership coordinator for the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce. "Congratulations to the police officer and firefighter honorees who were recognized. Each was presented with a plaque from the Chamber and a gift box, which included a $100 gift card from Bojangles of Fort Oglethorpe."
For more photos, see pages A6-7 or visit our website at catoosawalkernews.com