He goes by “Pineapple Joe,” or “Big Joe.”
At Canyon Lake RV Resort, on the marker board outside the dining hall, it simply reads: 4 p.m. - Veggie Man.
All of those monikers represent Jose Ybarra and for 21 years he has driven his portable market stand filled with produce and more to Winter Texan parks across the Rio Grande Valley. He brings good deals, fresh vegetables, fruits and more and when his truck appears in a park/resort, the lines start growing.
While the coronavirus pandemic has restructured the way people live, they still need to eat, and Ybarra provides. While the lines may not be as long as in the past, they still know when Ybarra is about to show up and they have their internal clocks ready.
“I have to give thanks to God to be able to do this,” said Ybarra, whose parents began working and selling produce more than 35 years ago. “This is a chance to provide for others. People don't want to run to the store for a lot of things, maybe just things like milk, meat and bread, because I have them.”
Peppers, onions, cabbage, oranges, apples, pineapples ... and much more freshly sit as customers either walk up (staying socially distanced) or drive up.
“Hey, do you have bananas?,” asked Juan Soto as he and his wife Ursela pulled up. “I have the yellow ones and green ones,” Ybarra replied before ending up slicing and removing the core of a pineapple for the couple. “I love what I do,” he added.
A former Donna Redskin football player, Ybarra also enjoys friendly banter with customers, who he knows most by name. He begins his day before 8 a.m. on the road to pick up his wide selection of produce (he has peanuts and honey as well) and will finish around 7 or 7:30 each night. He makes 15 stops throughout the week at resorts such as Snow to Sun, Casa del Valle, Eastgate, Park Place, Victoria Palms and about a dozen others. Ybarra and his wife also work two other stands, one at the Don Wes Flea Market (Wednesdays and weekends) and another at mile 13 ½ and Farm-to-Market Road 1015.
His wife of 16 years, Ursela, runs the store on FM 1015 and helps at the flea market.
“I'm here to accommodate everyone with quality, not quantity,” he said.
“All of the stuff we've gotten has been very good,” said park resident Ted Shaeffer, of Iowa. “We come out every week when he gets here.”
Canyon Lake has adjusted as well as any park in the Valley in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their activities calendar is still filled with events from card games to bean bag tosses (moved outside) to bingo and more. Breakfasts, lunch, and dinners are also extremely common. Each day has some type of activity scheduled. For example, on Tuesday there's quilting, shuffleboard, Po-ke-no, a pool tournament and Texas Hold 'em. Fridays in January are a mixture of breakfast (tacos or biscuits and gravy) with a soup day once week and a shrimp boil another week.
“We like to eat here,” joked activities director Terry Miller after Ybarra was done. This night's menu consisted of a meatball sub, cole slaw, a vanilla parfait, and an extra special treat – birthday cake in celebration of one of the resident's special days.
Other upcoming meals include turkey tetrazzini, hamburger, fried chicken and a sausage, kraut, fried potatoes night. Residents can dine in (following social distancing guidelines), order for takeout or even have their order delivered.
“We try to accommodate everyone as much as possible,” Park Manager Kris Jansson said. “Some don't feel safe coming out, so we take it to them.”
The park also has a smattering of entertainment on the calendar including the Redneck Revival, Curt James and Happy Hour with Diego and Edith. Due to the virus, all events are residents only.