ERROL CASTENS: Farmers’ markets are community quality centers

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

Some of the most thrilling realities in life are expressed in just a few words:
“I do.”
“You’re healthy as a horse.”
“The tomatoes are ripe.”
That last one might seem a rather cruel reminder that field-ripe tomatoes are still a few weeks away, but there’s good news on the horizon:
Blueberries and peaches have bloomed.
Broccoli, cabbage, potatoes and a host of other cool-season vegetables are in the ground, greedily reaching for the spring sun that ripens them.
Some farmers already have tomato seedlings in the ground, each grower hoping to offer you that first bite of summertime as early as possible.
All across Northeast Mississippi, growers have tuned up tractors, sharpened hoes and inspected their irrigation systems. This busy-ness is all about presenting you with delectable choices at your local farmers market, which will be opening soon. (Mid-Town Farmers’ Market in Oxford will open April 17. Tupelo Farmers Market begins its season May 9. To find others, call your local Extension Service office.)
As hard as the tillers of the soil are working, you also have a role —right now.
Go to your calendar and make a written-in-ink commitment to be at your closest farmers’ market on opening day at the crack of dawn. (If you’re habitually a sleepyhead on Saturday mornings, cancel the previous evening’s engagements and go to bed at sundown.)
Call your favorite growers and tell them what you’d really like them to see in their booth come spring or summer.
Want a specific variety of squash? Speak up now.
Know a particular salad green or a fabulous tomato cultivar that’s head and shoulders above all others? Let them know now, while there s still time to buy seed and start plants
Want baby watermelons that make just two delicious servings? Make your desires known.
Looking for just that certain flower that really makes an arrangement sing? Tell them now!
There are other ways to help. Lots of markets need volunteers to help organize, to give information and, yes, to slve problems. Or offer to perform: A host of musicians play and sing for tips and produce at the Mid-Town Farmers’ Market in Oxford, adding both to the atmosphere and to their own coffers and cupboards.
Another thing you can do is become a grower. The more variety and volume of great, locally grown produce any given market has, the more people it attracts and the more community it builds. Oh – did I mention that shoppers are increasingly looking for fresh, local and delicious produce?
We’re counting down the days.
Life is good.

Contact Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
reporter Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.