By NEMS Daily Journal
The Tupelo Farmers’ Market was bustling with activity Saturday morning, with a full complement of vendors and a big crowd of customers.
Seasonal produce abounded – tomatoes, squash, beans, potatoes, peaches, blueberries, just to name a few of the more prominent – and all laid out in colorful, alluring array. Breads and pastries were also in evidence.
People chatted with the growers of the food they would buy and with each other, two of the foundational purposes of such markets: to connect consumers with the people who grow their food, to the benefit of both, and to serve as a community gathering place.
The Farmers’ Market on Spring Street in Tupelo next to the railroad tracks and several others in the region have been successful and continue to grow. They are part of a nationwide trend that shows no sign of slowing down.
The number of farmers’ markets in the United States doubled between 2004 and 2011, to 7,175. They increased 17 percent just from 2010 to 2011.
In Mississippi, there are now 63 farmers’ markets, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Commerce.
The success of farmers’ markets is owed to several factors. Increasingly, people are aware of the health benefits of eating the kind of “real food” you’ll find at farmers’ markets. It’s actually a rediscovery of what we knew only a generation or two ago but forgot as processed convenience foods became more the norm.
The local angle is a big factor. People like to know that they’re spending their money to support people who live nearby and are saving the energy costs involved in shipping food from distant places. There’s something about being able to deal directly with the person who’s putting food on the table that’s appealing.
The popularity of farmers’ markets also reflects a growing understanding of the need for a rebirth in locally focused economies. That includes the great good that would come from a resurgence in the number of small farmers, who have been a rapidly vanishing breed.
But the most important factor may simply be that what you get at a farmers’ market is just plain fresh and delicious. That’ll pull people in any day.
The Tupelo market is run by the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association. Saturday’s the busiest day, but it’s also open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Hours are 6 a.m. until around noon.
A visit will put you back in touch with a reality we all tend to forget – that there are hard-working people behind the food we eat every day.