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Jonesboro farmers
market closes for winter

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

With backyard gardens harvested for fall, the University of Georgia's County Extension Office's farmers market is being declared a moderate success that will be even better in 2009.

"The gardens are pretty much played out now," said Tom Bonnell, the horticulture program assistant at the extension office in Jonesboro. "We're really hoping to do a better job next year ... We're hoping for word-of-mouth, and to really get a following."

The farmers market was a "work in progress" this summer. It was designed to be a place where backyard gardeners, trying to handle the plenitude of produce, could meet locals looking for good, fresh vegetables.

Meeting every other week, there were about seven vendors and about 50 to 75 buyers, Bonnell said. They came to the parking lot of the 1262 Government Circle office at about 8 a.m., and sold produce and socialized until it got hot, at about 1 p.m.

A lot of people came just for the social aspects of the event, stopping in early to talk, but Bonnell said lots of produce sold, too. He sold massive amounts of okra, and could have sold more.

"I sold out of my okra every time," Bonnell said. "If I had filled my truck up with okra every time, I could have sold it all. Maybe I'll plant more next year."

Bonnell said there will be some changes next year, which he hopes will improve the project.

The farmers market will be held every Saturday at the same time, so area produce buyers can make it part of their weekly shopping schedule. He said he's also made bigger signs, and has sought to bring in baked goods, honey and a good variety of produce.

The market could also be connected to free gardening classes, similar to some of the programs already run out of the extension office.

Bonnell is meeting with this year's vendors and others soon, to start planning for next season.

"Overall, I think it was a success," he said. "And I think it's going to be better next year. We're going to have a good thing here."