PULASKI, Ill. — The Pulaski General Store here is probably one of the few grocery stores in Illinois that is the result of an accident.

Pulaski County farmer Jerry Thurston has a heavily diversified operation. He produces crops, vegetables and livestock on 1,800 acres. But he never intended to own a grocery store.

“Yeah, we accidentally got a grocery store,” he said with a laugh recently while taking a break at the store.

Thurston grows corn and soybeans, but also has a sizeable vegetable operation. He supplies a number of supermarkets in the St. Louis-based Schnuck’s chain.

But the closing of the only grocery store in the town of fewer than 300 residents provided an unexpected opportunity.

The couple who operated the store for years passed away a short time from one another, leaving the building in the hands of an out-of-state relative. The store closed, and Thurston was contacted about purchasing the building.

He got it for a song and used it as a market where he sold vegetables, eggs and meat from his farm. It was open only on Saturdays.

Another grocery had been established across the street. That enterprise, however, went out of business due to financial problems.

“Suddenly we had people coming in looking for milk, meat, bread and everything,” Thurston said. “Over a matter of a few weeks, we slowly transformed it back into a grocery store. We had no intentions of it being a grocery store. Normally, we’d close in October and reopen in the spring. It was truly accidental.”

The building still had a fully functional walk-in cooler and shelves and was in sound physical condition. Thurston embarked on a remodeling project and started working with wholesalers. The revamped grocery opened in October 2012.

Thurston’s farm-fresh goods still are available there. He has fresh vegetables in season, as well as farm-raised eggs, beef, pork, lamb and goat meat throughout the year.

“We still have to buy a lot of meats and commercial eggs, but we have our farm-fresh eggs,” he said. “The beef, lamb and goat is off our farm. The pork is processed, and most of it is brought in fresh. We also have a frozen case with bacon and hams. Beef has been hard to keep up with because we only have about 20 cows.”

Thurston and his father — also named Jerry — share farming duties, though the vegetable operation is solely the domain of the younger Thurston.

He also has a 12-acre vineyard, with 10 acres in production. Most of his grape harvest goes to Blue Sky Winery in Makanda, though he also ships to a number of other wineries.

He grows vegetables on 30 acres, and gets the most out of his land.

“A lot of those are double-crop acres,” Thurston said. “We raise cabbage in the spring and follow it with squash in the fall, or sweet corn, followed by cucumbers — something like that.”

The vegetable operation also includes five high-tunnels, where tomatoes and some green peppers are grown in the clear plastic-sheathed frames in order to move up harvest. Most years he is able to pick ripe tomatoes three to four weeks earlier than conventionally grown produce.

The soils on the certified centennial farm are ideal for fruit and vegetable production.

“We have the Cache River, which is a cypress slough,” Thurston said. “It’s almost perfect vegetable ground.”

He purchased a nearby farm marked by rolling hills where he raises livestock, grapes and poultry.