Not many people can say they have been working on their careers since they were 10 years old, but that’s what Rick Catts has done.
Catts, the owner of Good Earth Produce and Garden Center on Davis Road, had a neighbor with a produce stand, and Catts asked if he could work for him on the weekends.
“That’s where it all started,” he said.
He started Good Earth 17 years ago in Aiken, selling plants and produce for 10 months out of the year.
Last September, he moved the business to Augusta and plans to be here for a while.
“Hopefully even longer than 17 years,” he said
Good Earth is built on the belief that fresh and local produce is the best kind, and Catts gets as much of his produce from local farmers as possible – most from farms within a 75-mile radius.
“People want to buy stuff that is grown near them,” he said. “People are getting a lot more conscious about eating local.”
When Catts says his produce is fresh, he’s not stretching. The tomatoes he sells are often picked the night before, and all of his peaches come freshly picked each morning.
“Our main draw is that it’s so much fresher,” he said.
Catts’ best sellers are those tomatoes and peaches.
He has more than 35 varieties of peaches, and they all come from a farm in Edgefield County. His tomatoes include a Cherokee Purple heirloom variety and giant vine-grown tomatoes perfect for sandwiches.
“Every customer is going to walk out of here with peaches and tomatoes in their bag, just watch,” he said with a laugh.
In between answering questions about his business, Catts fielded questions from customers about different tomato varieties and how customers should store ears of corn.
His decades of experience showed as he conversed freely about a certain tomato’s “smoky, rich flavor.”
That experience and personal interest is something he believes is a key to keep customers coming back.
“We’re going to talk to everyone of our customers,” he said. “If you’re making customers happy, they’re going to tell their friends and they’re going to keep coming.”
Talking about produce keeps him happy, too, and Catts said he can’t imagine himself doing anything different.
“I love it. It’s exciting, it’s never the same thing every day,” he said. “I probably work more hours working for myself, but I enjoy it. I really do.”
Good Earth has three to eight employees, depending on the season, and Catts said his average employee has worked with him for more than three years. Such low turnover means each employee has a deep knowledge base to help customers.
“The help is excellent,” customer Darlene Scales said. “Everything is so well-organized, and you can see and touch everything.”
Scales regularly buys produce from Good Earth, and she said she strongly believes in supporting local farmers and local businesses. She, her husband and her father all own small businesses, so she knows firsthand how important that support is.
“Local businesses won’t make it without community support,” she said.