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Farmers market coming to Jonesboro

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Late summer often finds backyard gardeners trying to handle an abundance of produce -- an explosion of squash, a rush of tomatoes, a flood of beans -- all ripe at the same time.

To help these gardners in their time of plenty, the Clayton County Extension Office will offer its parking lot as a local produce market this summer.

Tom Bonnell, the Horticulture Program Assistant at the University of Georgia County Extension Office, said the market will give gardeners a place to peddle their produce.

"What we're really hoping to do is get some people some good deals on some good produce, and create an outlet for people who have these backyard gardens. We have the space to offer and we want to be helpful to the community," Bonnell said.

The market will be held in the parking lot of the 1262 Government Circle, Jonesboro office from 9 a.m., to 3 p.m., on the second and fourth Saturdays in July, August and September. There will be free space for 33 local gardeners.

"They can come and sell out of the back of their car, or the back of their pickup truck, or set up a little table," Bonnell said. "They can sell whatever they have a lot of ... If you have extra produce, it's better to sell at a market than let it over-mature in the garden."

Bonnell said the extension office staff is still trying to figure out how to have a produce market, but they think they'll figure it out as they go along, using word-of-mouth and accepting everyone's help.

Daniel Hudson, who has a garden in his Jonesboro backyard, said he's excited about the idea of a farmers market for fresh, local-grown produce.

"I'm growing some tomatoes," Hudson said, "and you know, with all the concern about tomatoes right now, and the salmonella scare, I think people will be a whole lot more comfortable with produce grown right here, by their neighbors."

Hudson tried to start a summer farmers market in Jonesboro last year, with the Downtown Development Authority. The city council shut the DDA down before the market was launched.

Hudson said he believed the market would provide a valuable service by making fresh produce available, and would also serve the community as a great gathering place and regular social event.

Small farmers markets, and produce markets around the state, sponsored by cities' as Saturday events, have been successful, according to Hudson. Markets in Fairburn, Ga., and Washington, Ga., have practically exploded, he said.

"There are just so many benefits," Hudson added.

The first Jonesboro market is being planned for July 12. To register for a spot, gardeners can call Bonnell at (770) 473-5434.