WRITTEN BY GREGG L. PARKER
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOSHUA BERRY
Alongside the rolling pastures and fields of the Clift family farm, John and Susan Clift have chosen a rural lifestyle that is continuing the Clift legacy. They own S & J Produce Farms.
John and Susan’s reasons are straightforward for deciding to operate their small business that has big demands for physical work and many hours on-site. “We love Madison and the farm life,” John said.
S & J Produce Farms’ address is 8140 U.S. 72 West, across from the Target center.
In early 2018, Jack Clift (John’s 99-year-old grandfather) sold the family farm covering 550 acres to developer Louis Breland. The Clift family has owned the land since 1850. Knox Creek (roughly) is the northern boundary of the parcel, Wall Triana eastward, U.S. Highway 72 to the south and Balch Road westward.
In coming years on this land, Breland will create a mixed-use environment with residential housing, office space, retail center and also preserve green space.
However, Jack Clift did not sell the acres comprising ‘the home place,’ where John and Susan Clift have established their produce business. Furthermore, they live in a restored house on this land. John Thomas Clift, who is John Clift’s great-great-grandfather, built the house in 1881.
John is a native Madisonian. Susan grew up in Middle Georgia. “I helped my aunts and uncles on their farms,” she said.
When their ‘stand’ opens in April, John and Susan have green and red tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, zucchini, cantaloupe, onions, dry and boiled peanuts, corn, potatoes, strawberries, turnip and mustard greens, sweet corn. Spring also includes ferns, tropical plants and flowering hanging pots.
“In summer, we add green beans, shelled and unshelled peas, peaches, blackberries, blueberries, eggplant and watermelon,” John said. For fall, the Clifts stock pumpkins, collards, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, kale and chrysanthemums.
Year-round, they sell jam that Amish families have prepared. Strawberry is always a favorite, but 13 other tasty flavors are available.
Pickled products are popular with shoppers at S & J. Six different types of fried pies are available.
Studies that John pursued at Auburn University help him in managing the business and in experimenting with new vegetable varieties and soil enhancement.
Feedback from customers has been very positive. “They love coming here, and their children love it, too,” Susan said. Shoppers especially rave about the quality and taste of tomatoes and collard greens that the Clifts sell.
John and Susan have incorporated a few sentimental touches from the Clift farm in their business. “Our new produce tables are made from the original logs out of the old home place that we live in,” Susan said.
However, they don’t regret the sale of the farm and new look that the landscape will have as the property sees development. “Life has many changes. We have learned to accept and embrace change,” Susan said.
Business hours are Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. In October and November, they’re open seven days each week.
For more information, call 256-425-7320 or visit Facebook/S&J Produce.