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Operators at roadside stands being more watchful following alleged kidnapping

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POTSDAM - Families who operate roadside vegetable stands - Amish and non-Amish alike - say they’re being more careful of strangers in the wake of last week’s alleged kidnapping of two sisters in Heuvelton, but they haven’t stopped selling freshly-picked produce because of the ordeal.

In the height of the north country harvest season, roadside stands throughout St. Lawrence County on Monday were filled with ripe tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, broccoli, onions, peppers and other produce.

Business seemed brisk at several stands as customers drove up to exchange cash for corn, carrots and other vegetables.

Mose and Amanda Yoder, Route 11B, Potsdam, said they’ve always taught their eight children to be careful when manning the family’s vegetable stand and the incident prompted them to repeat those discussions and keep a closer eye on their children when they’re outside.

“It wakes us again that they (bad things) do happen in this world and we have to be careful,” Mr. Yoder said. “We talked about it as a family and explained how things happen like that.”

Mrs. Yoder said, “It gave us a warning. We try not to have the kids down by the stand too much by themselves.”

She said the alleged kidnapping made her “feel pretty sad,” but those feelings turned to relief when the girls returned to their Heuvelton area home on Mount Alone Road off of state Route 812.

“The good part is they’re home again and they’re OK,” Mrs. Yoder said.

Daniel Z. Martin said he will continue to allow his oldest child, age 11, to wait on customers at Martin’s Farmstand on Needham Road, Potsdam. However, he said an adult is always nearby, and he intentionally built the stand away from the highway and close to the family’s home. Mr. Martin and his wife, Mendy, have eight children.

“We know there’s 10,000 good people and bad one. One is too many to do something like that,” Mr. Martin said, referring to the alleged abduction. “There would be some marketing advantages to being on the main road, but the site we have is a safer, better way to live for my family.”

An Amish farmer from Lisbon who did not want to give his name said his 14-year-old son will wait on the stand instead of his daughters if he and his wife are not home to keep an eye on things.

“We need to sell the vegetables. It’s part of our livelihood,” he said.

Fannie Miller, 55, of Route 184, Depeyster, is the aunt of the two girls who were allegedly snatched from their roadside vegetable stand six days ago and driven away in a white four-door sedan. Her family has operated a vegetable stand for nearly 30 years and on Monday two of her children, a 17-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son, were manning the stand.

Mrs. Miller said she’s always taught her children not to get too close to a stranger’s vehicle, but she’s been extra watchful since last week’s ordeal. She has eight children and 14 grandchildren.

“I think now we’re just being a little more careful,” she said as customers drove up to her roadside stand stocked with vegetables, jams and hand-sewn pot holders.

For about three days after the alleged kidnapping, Mrs. Miller said business was noticeably slower at the family’s stand.

“We felt people didn’t want to face us because they felt so sad,” she said.

Richard P. TeRiele, Old DeKalb Road, Canton, said it’s been business as usual at his sweet corn stand and he’s not worried about letting his sons, ages 13 and 15, wait on customers. The stand only stays open until about 5 p.m. and it’s just a short distance from the family’s farmhouse.

“They’re pretty alert. If there’s somebody creepy, they know enough to go in the house and get someone,” Mr. TeRiele said.

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