When Susan Bishop closed Mabry's Market last June she promised her customers she wouldn't be far away.
No longer able to afford the overhead of a brick-and-mortar operation, she brought back the concept of offering organic herbs and produce as well as the products of other local farmers over the Internet. The idea was to continue serving her customers by enabling them to order online and then pick up the farm-fresh items on Fridays at her family's farm on County Road 579.
"I can get fresh organic fruits and vegetables, help the local economy and visit this wonderful farm at the same time," said Joyce Schoonover, a customer of Bishop's since 2010. "Susan is personable and makes the drive over here worthwhile. It's like coming to an old community market."
According to Bishop, about 90 percent of her current customers are from the Sun City Center area — which doesn't surprise her.
"I heard Sun City Center has the fourth largest PC user's group in the county," she said. "I carry things the grocery stores don't have, like the large selection of fresh greens, and organic herbs and produce.
"That's important to many Sun City Center residents."
Mabry's Online Market is the retail side of Mabry's Market, which is co-owned by Bishop and her sister, Kathy Oliver. The pair also own My Mother's Garden, the farming side of the business, where they have grown organic herbs and veggies since 1992.
The sisters have been breeding Murray Grays and Angus-mix cattle since 2002 and raising woodland- and pasture-raised Berkshire hogs since 2007.
"For a long time we sold the cows in halves or quarters, and then we found a USDA processor who slaughters, cuts and wraps the meat." Bishop said. "That enabled us to sell retail cuts like hamburger, steaks, chops and ribs."
In April 2010, Bishop opened a retail shop on State Road 674 in Wimauma. She operated it there for two years before succumbing to the slumping economy, increased costs and pressures of being away from the 89-acre farm.
"There's always something that needs attention here, and the work was being neglected," she said. "Now I have time to care for the animals, maintain the garden and do the fence work and clearing without worrying about anything else. I'm very happy to be back."
The farm is definitely a family operation.
Bishop's sons Jesse, 24, and Calvin, 22, both help out and enjoy working alongside her. And her brother, Stuart, raises the chickens that produce the free-range eggs she sells.
"There's something about raising your own food and living in such a peaceful environment," Bishop said. "It makes life special."
That sentiment extends to her customers.
"When I closed Mabry's I was unwilling to give up on being able to share our produce with local customers here in Southern Hillsborough County. The online market gives us the opportunity to do that."
Still she acknowledges not everyone embraces the idea.
"This kind of shopping is not for everybody," she said. "It's not for those who shop spur of the moment. It's for those who care about the quality of the produce and meats they eat, plan their meals and are willing to make the trip out to the farm."
My Mother's Garden organic farm is at 3819 C.R. 579, Wimauma. Orders may be picked up between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Fridays. Payment is made only after customers have had the chance to inspect their orders. Cash, local checks and credit cards are accepted.
For more information on the market, visit www.mabrysmarketonline.com