Earl Freudenberg: Remembering Earl Roden, Longtime Farmers Market Fixture

  • Thursday, June 23, 2022
  • Earl Freudenberg

The late Hamilton County Executive Dalton Roberts said one time he always bought his watermelons from Earl Roden at the Farmers Market on E. 11th Street. Dalton said no one knew fresh produce like Earl and, for many years, the top county official and his parents were regular customers. Mr. Roden passed away Wednesday with his family by his side.

His daughter Diane posted on Facebook, “We love you Dad, rest in peace.”

As long as I can remember, there’s been Earl Roden Produce.

His grandfather had a stand at various locations, and his dad Virgil sold produce in the early days of the curb market. Earl said he was introduced to fresh tomatoes, peaches, and all the vegetables at the age of five when the market was on Patten Parkway.

I’ve known the Rodens since the 1980’s when they started advertising with me on radio. His family was like a second family. One July 4th we did a remote broadcast from Rodens giving everyone a free slice of iced cold watermelon. People came from everywhere and, by the end of the broadcast, he’d sold all his watermelons. Earl knew how to promote.

Earl said he fell in love with “Clo” at the curb market and they got married. “She was the prettiest, cutest young girl I’d ever seen.” Clo was always there at the business and said she learned everything about fresh vegetables from Earl.

Many News Free Press, city hall and federal building employees were regular customers as the produce stand that was located nearby. Newspaper Editor Lee Anderson liked Earl’s fresh strawberries and the late Buddy Houts said he couldn’t wait for Georgia Belle peach season and Earl would always save him some. Former Red Bank Mayor and newspaper writer Ronnie Moore would walk over to the market and get a sack of fresh winesap apples.

I don’t know that Earl Roden had many hobbies but he loved horses. Just ask him and he’d tell you about his new one and he loved to talk about his grandchildren.

One fall there was an overabundance of pumpkins and he gave all the school children a free one.

He enjoyed explaining the difference between sorghum and molasses and was always bragging about his "red ripe tomatoes."

Earl’s favorite season was Christmas when he’d pack fresh fruit boxes and Christmas candy for clubs, schools and churches. Earl would stay open late on Christmas Eve. He said, “You’d be surprised how many wait until the last minute to shop and I’ll be here for them.”

Earl Roden was a generous man always helping with the Forgotten Child Fund at Christmas donating fruit boxes to needy families. Earl would give horse and buggy rides for a donation to FCF.

When homeless individuals would come around, Earl would find some type of work for them and give them a sack of fresh fruit to eat.

His main location was at the former curb market on E. 11th Street, but the family later expanded to Signal Mountain Road and Dayton Boulevard in North Red Bank. Although he suffered a stroke in 2004, family members operated the business until Earl was able to return. In addition to Clo, you’d find his daughters Shelia, Wanda, Diane, and son Arthur helping out.

Mr. Roden was in the produce business all his life. When the Farmers Market closed down about 15 years ago, Earl couldn’t stay home and he opened a produce stand on Chickamauga Avenue about halfway between Rossville and Fort Oglethorpe.

Retired WDEF TV program director Doris Ellis lives near the Roden family In Lookout Valley. Ms. Ellis said, “I will miss my good neighbor who was always nearby to help.”

Nephew Danny said his uncle was the hardest working man he’d ever known.

Grandchildren said their granddad always listened and offered lots of free advice.

His daughter Shelia’s remembrance, “the best dad a girl could ask for who taught me to be a hard worker. I thank God for allowing me to be your baby girl.”

I asked Earl Roden his formula for success, and he responded, “Love of God, family, country and lots of hard work.” Some of his last words, “Thank you Sweet Jesus for saving my soul.”

In the words of his friend the late Hamilton County Commissioner Curtis Adams, “Earl Roden was a true Chattanooga treasure.”

Arrangements are being handled by the W.L.Wilson Funeral Home in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.

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