Jonesboro farmer’s market makes best of sluggish start

Opening day plagued by few vegetables, customers

Kim Tran (left) talks to Carol Hatfield as she sells her some tomato and parsley plants Saturday during the opening of the Jonesboro farmers market hosted by the University of Georgia's Clayton County Extension Office.

Kim Tran (left) talks to Carol Hatfield as she sells her some tomato and parsley plants Saturday during the opening of the Jonesboro farmers market hosted by the University of Georgia's Clayton County Extension Office.

— Umm Taufeeq saw the sign for a farmers market in downtown Jonesboro and thought it would be a good opportunity to buy some fresh vegetables, but luck was not on her side.

“We had two guys selling vegetables earlier but they’re all sold out,” vendor Fran Lane told Taufeeq of Jonesboro.

“Oh no, that’s the main reason I came,” said Taufeeq.

“Yeah, they sold out in about an hour,” Lane said.

Taufeeq did buy some honey from Lane’s honey booth and she did try some baked goods from Susan Porter’s booth, but there wasn’t much else available.

Her experience was typical of the people who came to the opening of the farmers market hosted by the University of Georgia’s Clayton County Extension Office. The opening was plagued by two issues: fewer vendors than expected and fewer customers than expected.

The market had 10 vendors on opening day, but many of them sold plants. There were only the two vegetable stands with a limited supply of vegetables. Lane was selling Buster’s Bees Honey, which she and her husband make. After two hours, Porter showed up with her baked goods booth, which proved to be a hit with vendors and customers.

Porter began baking at 4 on the morning of the market opening to make the apple pies, banana nut bread and cookies that she sold. She quickly sold all 15 pies, and the cookies and bread sold briskly as well because customers were buying in bulk.

Porter, a Jonesboro resident who teaches in Fulton County Schools, said freshness is the key because that makes for a better product. Her baked good were still warm from the oven when she set them out at the market.

“It’s the freshness that people like,” said Porter. “You want to be able to taste that crispness when you take a bite.”

But in a two-hour span, from 9:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., there were about 40 customers.

“It’s just been slow,” said extension Agent Tom Bonnell. “Folks have been trickling by, but there hasn’t been much to buy. The gardens didn’t put out like they have in the past.”

Last year, there were 14 vendors on opening day, but low garden output wasn’t the only reason why there fewer less sellers this year. Bonnell said he’s lost at least one vendor to a new market held at the same time in Morrow.

Still, he’s optimistic that things will pick up. He said some of his regular vendors expect to have some crops ready to sell in the coming weeks. The alternating pattern of cold weather followed by hot weather, followed by cold weather again this spring played a roll in the delay of some gardens.

Bonnell said seeds have been slow to germinate this year but the temperatures have evened out and there has been an abundance of rain in recent weeks to help plants grow.

“In two weeks, you’re going to see a completely different market because everybody’s gardens are late this year,” said Bonnell.

The customers who came out for the opening were able to make something of the trip, though.

Carol Hatfield said she wanted to buy some vegetables, but she also missed those vendors. She was able to buy a pair of rainbow tomato plants and some Italian parsley from Kim Tan, who grows cooking herbs in the backyard of her Fayetteville home.

“I can still put it in a pot and make it happen,” said Hatfield.

Lane said the market needs more customers for the vendors who are out selling, however.

“I wish the people of Jonesboro would realize what a blessing this is for them,” said Lane. “We have locally-grown and made foods that are healthy for them. If we could get them out of Walmart and the grocery stores and get them to start buying local products, it would be a win for everybody.”

But one of the key problems is that despite the summertime market being around for several years, some people still don’t know that it exists.

“Tom sent out emails to everyone to let them know we were opening today, but for some reason we can’t seem to get the message out,” Lane said.

Many customers, such as Jonesboro residents Betty Roundtree and Corine Westmoreland, came across the market by accident Saturday.

“We were at the bank and I wanted to stop and look at these pretty flowers,” said Roundtree, who bought a spotted flower from Master Gardener Lillie Golden.

Taufeeq said she came across the sign for the market Saturday while driving down Main Street. That was the first she knew of there being a farmers market in Jonesboro, she said.

“I didn’t know about this until just now,” said Taufeeq, as she explained to Lane why she didn’t make it out earlier to catch the vegetable vendors.

“Well, tell all of your friends about us because we’re trying to let as many people as possible know that we’re here,” said Lane.

Despite the shortage of vegetables on opening day, Taufeeq said she’ll continue to be a patron of the market.

“Next weekend, I’ll try again,” she said.

The farmers market is open throughout the summer and early fall Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 12 p.m. and Tuesdays from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. The market is in a city-owned parking lot, across from the Jonesboro Fire House Museum and Community Center at 103 West Mill St.