End of the season for Farmers Markets

Row-crop farmers aren’t the only ones hurt by September’s deluges.
Visits through Northeast Mississippi farmers’ markets show it was a tough month for vegetable growers as well.
Tupelo Farmers Market on Spring Street normally operates 6 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday but has changed to Saturday only through Oct. 31, when it will officially close for the season.
“This has been a really unusual year,” said Carl Brangenberg, the market’s manager. “We would typically have tomatoes, peas and greens through the end of October, but we have very little left.”
A vendor had a similar take on the weather’s impact.
“We had beautiful greens, and with the rain, they’re just awful right now,” said Carla Gibson of Ecru, who sells at Tupelo Farmers Market.
Alcorn County Extension Director Patrick Poindexter said Corinth Farmers Market runs Monday through Saturday, sun-up to sundown, through the end of November.
“The produce has looked really good this year in general, but the late-season rains haven’t helped anything,” he said, noting tomatoes that split in the field and fungal diseases hitting numerous crops.
On the plus side, he noted the market has locally grown pumpkins, gourds and chrysanthemums along with corn stalks and broomcorn for fall decoration.
Taylor Farmers Market remains open through Oct. 31, mixing arts and crafts with its produce, baked goods and other locally grown food. New Albany’s Wednesday and Saturday markets have officially ended their seasons, “but we are having some people still coming to our Saturday market,” said Union County Extension Service Director Stanley Wise Jr.
“It’s very tough. The rain wiped out my fall tomato crop. We have people with a few tomatoes, squash, peppers and canned goods at the market. Most everything else is gone.”
After-market sales
Some farmers’ market vendors will continue to sell local produce even after their local markets close.
Starkville’s Saturday market closed two weeks early because of the rainfall, but market director Tammy Tyndall said many of its vendors would return downtown for the Pumpkinpalooza celebration on Oct. 23, when part of Main Street will be closed off for a street fair from 6 to 8 p.m.
In Oxford, the Mid-Town Farmers’ Market officially closed on Sept. 26, but several vendors will continue selling on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings for several more weeks, offering local foods as varied as milk, pastured chickens, tomatoes and breads. Linda Boyd, one of the market’s regular vendors, uses “high tunnels” to grow salad greens and other cool-tolerant foods throughout the winter, which she delivers weekly to her clientele base.
Ecru’s Gibson said she’ll be selling from her home throughout the off season – especially if the weather improves.
“We’ll have winter greens – mustard, turnips, collards,” she said. Pointing to the jellies, jams, preserves and vegetables in jars on her display table, she added, “And we sell our canned goods all winter.”
Mike and Doris Buci of Greenwood Springs will continue to be at Tupelo Farmers Market through October, with limited sales at their home afterward. Much of their emphasis from now through January will be on their other enterprise.
“Some people may still buy greens out here after the market, but I have a deer processing business that opens up today,” Doris Buci said last Thursday, the first day of bow season.
Poindexter said one way for consumers to find local produce even out of season is to get to make contacts with growers during the market season. Another is to call their local Extension Service office.
“If people have needs or wants as far as produce goes, they can call us,” he said. “We can generally find someone who’s growing something good all winter long.”
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

Shopping the farmers’ markets
Tips for making the most most of your visits:
* Know your seasons. Don’t expect field-ripened tomatoes in April or spinach in August in Mississippi.
* Go early or go late. Early shoppers get best selections; late shoppers may find the best deals.
* Take big bags and small change.
* Sketch meals ahead of time.
* Leave room in your plans for spontaneity.
* If a vegetable is new to you, ask the farmer how to prepare it.
* If you buy a lot, a cart, wagon or even stroller can be a big help to carry your goodies.
SOURCE: about.com

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal