By Ginna Parsons
TUPELO – The Tupelo Farmers’ Market will officially open for its 15th season on Saturday, May 17, at 6 a.m.
The days events will include the “Garden Mama” radio show, presentations by Lee County Master Gardeners, musical entertainment, a chef demonstration, children’s activities and farm-fresh produce.
The market is located on South Spring Street near Clark Street, right beside the railroad tracks. It will be open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 6 a.m. until about noon.
“We have 26 stalls at the market and they’re all full,” said Jessica Hollinger, marketing associate for the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association.
Early offerings will include English peas, new potatoes, strawberries, cabbage, lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower, onions and tomatoes from St Bethany Fresh, said Craig Helmuth, program associate for DTMSA.
“We had some squash early last year – crookneck squash – but I don’t know about that this year,” he said.
There will also be breads, pastries, cakes and pies for sale and maybe even a few home-canned goods.
“We’re already getting a lot of calls,” Helmuth said. “People are wanting to know when it opens. They’re ready for it.”
“Garden Mama,” aka Nellie Neal, will be at the market from 8 to 10 a.m. talking with customers, taping her live radio show and answering questions.
“I love Tupelo and I love the farmers’ market,” said Neal, who splits her time between homes in Jackson and Kosciusko. “I had such a great time there last year. I have a real soft spot for farmers’ markets and this is a good one. It’s high on my radar and it should be on everybody else’s.”
Neal said she’ll probably talk about storm recovery on her radio show and about doing things in the garden in May that folks don’t want to do when the weather gets hot. She’ll also be selling and signing copies of her new book, “Deep South Month-by-Month Gardening.”
“The whole farmers’ market movement is something whose time has come,” Neal said. “The more towns, the more cities, the more states we can get to realize how powerful this is, the better off we are. The way we eat affects the way we feel and look, and Mississippi needs that.”
At 8 a.m., Chef Danny Weldon from Fairpark Grill will give a demonstration on how to prepare items you can purchase at the market, Hollinger said. There will also be children’s demonstrations and live music during the morning.
The Lee County Master Gardeners will present an event from 10 to 11 a.m. called “Celebration of Gardens” at the Community Garden on South Spring Street in conjunction with the market’s opening.
Speakers will give presentations on the basics of gardening, organic gardening and beekeeping. There will also be a children’s program featuring flowers and vegetable plants, and an overview of pollinators.
“The event will end with children releasing Monarch butterflies into the environment,” said Reginald Rose, a Master Gardener.
In addition, a table will be set up from 7 to 11 a.m. at the garden and manned by Master Gardeners who will be answering gardening questions and providing other information.
As part of the market’s grand opening, the 3rd Annual “Feast for the Farmers” dinner, a fundraiser for the market, will be May 16 at 7 p.m. under the market shed on South Spring Street.
Food for the meal will be provided by BBQ by Jim, Café 212, Fairpark Grill, Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen, Native Son Farm, Neon Pig, Papa V’s, Park Heights, Romie’s, Rosie’s, South, St Bethany Fresh and the Stables.
Tickets for the dinner are $30 each or $50 per couple. They can be purchased through the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association at 108 South Broadway Street or by calling (662) 841-6598.