0

Local farmer's market gearing up for 3rd year

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Riverdale resident, Lillie Golden, wears two hats when she is at the Clayton County Cooperative Extension Service's twice-a-week farmer's markets in the summer.

One hat is that of a seller. She sells plants she grows in a greenhouse behind her home. The plants range from cactuses, to common house plants.

The other hat is that of a buyer. When business slows down a bit, Golden walks around to other stands, to check out what other people are selling, and to socialize with other sellers. Often, she ends up buying a few vegetables in the process. She said that other sellers at the market do the same thing.

It is that community atmosphere, Golden said, that has kept her coming back to sell her plants at the market for three years now. "We chat with each other, share information, and buy things from each other," she said.

The extension service started its third annual round of farmer's markets this past weekend, said Tom Bonnell, an extension service horticulture program assistant, and coordinator of the farmer's market.

He said the market will operate at the extension service's office, which is located at 1262 Government Circle, in Jonesboro, every Saturday and Wednesday, until Sept. 18.

It will be open from 8 a.m., to noon on Saturdays, and from 11 a.m., to 1 p.m., on Wednesdays. Bonnell said there is no fee for anyone to sell items at the market.

"It's done to offer fresh produce to the community," he said. "It also provides an outlet for local gardeners to sell whatever vegetables they don't need. Instead of letting it overgrow, and go bad, why not come out here and sell it?"

But, not everything that is sold at the market is a vegetable. In addition to Golden's plants, Bonnell sells honey that was made by the honey bees he raises.

Riverdale resident, Terry Irvin, sells home-baked goods and other items, such as cakes, Brunswick stew, banana bread, and blackberry jam, every Wednesday, to raise money for the Susan G. Komen For The Cure group, money that goes to breast cancer research. The food is made by her sister, Gail Irvin.

This is the first year Terry Irvin has sold anything at the market, although her sister sold food there over the last two years. "It's going good, so far," she said, just after noon, on Wednesday. "So far, about 10 people have come by my booth, since 11 a.m."

Lovejoy resident, Esther Worthington, said this is her second year as a seller at the market. Her table had an assortment of vegetables and other items, including okra, tomatoes, pear relish, gourds, and a head of cabbage that was the size of a human head. She said her family operates a Christmas tree farm that includes a vegetable garden.

"I enjoyed it last year," Worthington said. "I enjoy sitting, and visiting with the other vendors, and we usually have more produce than we can use, so I can bring it here and sell whatever we don't need."

A first-time customer, Stockbridge resident, Ruth Kershaw, said she decided to give the market a try on Wednesday after her husband, who works for the Clayton County Fire Department, saw a flyer for it, and passed it along to her. She said she was interested in the opportunity to buy some organic, fresh-from-a-garden foods.

Kershaw walked from table to table, with a purple beach basket in hand, her young daughter, Michelle, at her side, and her infant son, Byron, in a baby carrier that was wrapped around her upper body. She bought a few small, $1 plants from Golden, and then went to check out the food being sold by Worthington and Terry Irvin.

"I became a little more interested in the market, when I was researching organic foods online, and saw this listed as a place where you could get some organic vegetables," Kershaw said. "I like organic foods, because I think it's healthier. Also, I want to support the local farmers, so this is a way to do that."

The prices vary, from seller to seller, so a customer might see a basket of tomatoes being sold for $7 by one vendor, and then see $10 banana bread being sold by someone else across the parking lot, while another person is selling a $3 head of cabbage.

Bonnell recommended that people, who want a deal, should walk around to every stand, just to look, at first, and then go back later to the vendors with the best prices. He also recommended good, old-fashioned bargaining with the vendors.

"Don't be afraid to make an offer," he said. "This goes back to the old bartering days, where you barter prices with the vendor."

For more information about the farmer's market, call (770) 473-5434.