Truck Farmers – A Time Gone By

By Joe Lowry
Edited by Trish Gully

Between 1870 and 1920, 95% of all vegetable produce, eggs, and other food items that were eaten in Memphis and Shelby County were grown by local Italian Truck Farmers.

One of the earliest families was the Bacigalupo’s, located on the property where Malvern Street and Peach Avenue intersect.
The majority of truck farmers were in the western part of the community of Frayser. The names were; Angelo, Dallosta, Fracchia, Servio, Laguzzi, Bursi, Trotti, Guasco, Amisano, Belisomo, Torti, Belluomini, Coscia, Robilio, Mensi, Lenzi, Lunati and Novarese.

Truck farms were also located in East Memphis on Colonial Rd. between Southern and Park, (Piano’s and Beretta’s) and on White Station between Mason Rd. and Rich Road. More were located further north across summer, at Novarese Rd. between Berclair and Stratford. And, many to the south in Whitehaven.

Truck farmers would load up their produce the night before and each morning early they would make the rounds. Stopping at all of the most fashionable hotel restaurants, the downtown restaurants, the farmer’s markets, and then into the neighborhoods.

In 1956, when I was 5 years old, and living on Avalon Street north of Henry Ave about 9:30 am, the Italian truck farmer would pull up in front of our home and he would ring a loud bell. The Mrs.’ Griffith, Smith, Handwerker, and my grandmother would all meet out front and pick through the fresh vegetables in the baskets on his wagon. You name it, he had it all fresh. Sometimes he would have jams and jellies too.

Sometimes we all forget how different life was back then, a time gone by.

1 thought on “Truck Farmers – A Time Gone By

  1. My grandfather, Frank Garavelli, started with a small farm in Frayser. He would take his produce to sell on Front Street. Later he purchased 100 acres at Holmes and Tulane Road. He brought his brother from Italy to work with him. They built a large house on the property, raised 2 families and lived there for years. My grandfather was one of the founders of the Shelby County Growers Association, aka The Scott Street Market.
    He was selected to be president of the market. Since all the transactions at the market were cash, he would walk the grounds with a pistol to prevent the farmers from being robbed.

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