T. A. Winkleman Shipping Produce For Over 65 Years
Shipping Produce Is Old Story To T. A. Winkleman, 91, Of Rogers By J. Dickson Black - Published in the Arkansas Times, August 17, 1962- Now the NWA Democrat Gazette
For the past 65 years T. A. Winkleman of Rogers has been buying farm produce. Now at the age of 91 he has settled down to handling mostly wild fruits. This year he has orders for three tons each of wild huckleberries, grapes, and plums, if he can find this amount.
Winkleman was born near Oskaloosa, Iowa, April 15, 1871, and was orphaned at five. He had a hard time in his youth, but he managed to qualify to attend William Penn College in Oskaloosa for a short time.
For 10 years he worked for A. C. Hamilton Company of Fayetteville, a large produce company. He started as a clerk at $25 a month and worked up to $75 as a manager. He served them at Galveston, Texas, Cuba, Mo., Westville, Okla., Winslow, Prairie Grove, Springdale and Eureka Springs.
In 1906 he moved to Rogers and started the Benton County Produce Company which he ran as an independent dealer all but four years. Those years he was affiliated with E. C. Nail and Son, stockmen and apple producers.
He was one of the first men to see an outside market for huckleberries. In 1907 he shipped the first of them out of Benton County. Since that date he shipped huckleberries to many states.
"Express rates have hurt the produce business more than any other one thing," says Winkleman. "In the early days the rate was very low and service fast. I could afford to ship fresh fruit and vegetables a long distance and still make money. But the rate has gone up so high that I can't ship and make any money.
"I have bought at least a few of every type of fruits, vegetables, and nuts that can be grown in the area. In many cases I shipped out carloads. Then, too, I had such items as bananas, lemons, oranges and nuts shipped in to sell locally.
"A produce man in that day had to buy and ship what was grown in his area, and ship in for local sale to the stores the items not grown there. If there was a crop failure here on any item. I would buy a few cases or carloads elsewhere and have them shipped here. ____________________
In 1907, Winkleman pioneered fancy white eggs. At that time he hand-graded the eggs and used the sun to candle them by. Over the years he shipped fancy eggs to hotels in several states.
He developed markets and promoted the growth in the area for green snap beans, cucumbers, peppers, sweet potatoes, berries of every type, cherries and nuts.
Whenever he could find a good market that was short of produce he would try and get a few farmers in Benton and Washington counties to grow what was needed. He was always persuading people to try a new type of seed or plant hoping to find a better one so he and the farmers could make more money.
"Whenever people asked how much money I have paid out for produce in the area, or how many tons of produce I handled in all my 65 years I am loss to answer them," said Winkleman.
The figure in rail cars, trucks, and small express lots would run into hundreds of tons. In his years here he shipped from three carloads to over 225 carloads a year of fruit, vegetables, and nuts. There are no records of the truck loads, large and small or the many lots shipped each month by express.
Winkleman and a box of Huckleberries
He paid millions of dollars to the farmers for their produce in the past 65 years. He can remember two years he paid out almost a quarter of a million each, and many years it was near $200,000.
"In many ways it was an unsure business to be in," Winkleman said, "I had to depend on the other man, and the weather.
"If it was a bad crop year there was very little that I could buy, to ship. Then if it was a bumper crop all over the country the price would drop and I would have a hard time finding a market."
Winkleman was one of the early shippers of wild black walnuts in the shell. He shipped them as far as California -- two carloads one year.
He also had a large business in shelled wild walnuts. For several years he had 50 to 60 farm famlies cracking the nuts for him. He has shipped as high as 13,000 pounds of shelled nuts a year.
He bought hickory nuts when he could get them. But it was hard to find the large nuts that can be sold on the market.
Winkleman did a good business in hides and furs. He bought cow and horsehides, wool, fox, mink, o'possum, skunk, civet cat, furs in season. He shipped, or sold to local markets, dressed wild rabbits, and turkeys. ------------------------- When Winkleman closed the Benton County Produce Company in downtown Rogers many years ago he moved the sign home and hung it on a small building in his back yard. Here he buys and sells fruit, nuts and eggs six days a week. Sunday he attends the Methodist Church where he has been an active member since he first came to Rogers.
Winkleman is in fair health and you can often find him pitching horseshoes with friends. He lives alone in the old Winkleman home.
"I can't say just why I am so active at my age," said Winkleman "It could be because I have worked hard, and followed the teaching of the Bible in all my dealing with my fellow man.
"As long as I can get around and buy and sell produce I have no plans to retire. That's just a good way to sit down and grow old in a hurry."