Farmers’ markets up and running

Sandra Guest, left, and Josephine Alexander of Tubby Creek Farm in Ashland discuss radishes, turnips and other spring produce at Oxford City Market in early May./Errol Castens

Sandra Guest, left, and Josephine Alexander of Tubby Creek Farm in Ashland discuss radishes, turnips and other spring produce at Oxford City Market in early May./Errol Castens

With the onset of warm weather, both Oxford-based farmers’ markets have more to offer literally every week.

Mid-Town Farmers’ Market near downtown and Oxford City Market on the west side are fully stocked with cool-weather produce from salad mixes and greens to radishes, beets, carrots, English peas and new potatoes, along with the first summer produce such as cucumbers and squash. Greenhouse tomatoes, baked goods, shrimp, eggs, grits and other offerings not as directly dependent on the season add to the variety. Live music is a staple crop of both markets as well.

“We mostly are home gardeners, but we always plant more than we needed,” said OCM vendor Sara Chavez of Tripod Farms, named for her three-legged dog and located off Old Sardis Road. “This is a really convenient location for us. Right now we have a variety of salad mixes, and the biggest sellers with our tomato plants are the cherry tomatoes.”

Marilyn Cheeseman of Benton County’s Flora Gardens draws shoppers at Mid-Town with free-range eggs, including the duck eggs that many bakers favor, along with jellies, jams and seasonal produce and flowers. Later in the season, customers will flock in for her tuberose bouquets.

“I love coming here,” she said. “I love seeing my friends, and some days I do better here than my husband does at the downtown Memphis market.”

Aileen Bost, Mid-Town market manager, said with the severe winter and late spring, summer produce will be a little later than usual this year.

“We’ll have peaches and nectarines in mid-June, and it’ll probably be mid-June before field tomatoes are ready,” she said. Other summer produce anticipated at both markets includes field peas, butterbeans, eggplant, sweet corn, okra, green beans,

Mid-Town Farmers’ Market has begun its 14th year at Mid-Town Shopping Center on North Lamar. It’s open Saturday mornings from 7-11 a.m. and Wednesdays, starting next week, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“Mid-Town Farmers’ Market is very neighborly and family-oriented,” said manager Aileen Bost, a volunteer whose family’s farm is one of the market’s charter members.

“I come here for the fresh vegetables and camaraderie, the familial atmosphere,” said Gene Bramlett, a United Methodist pastor who has shopped at Mid-Town since its early days. “These folks are really kind and gentle, and they have great produce. This has been a really good thing for the community – and for the farmers and other producers as well. I’d like to see it expanded, if there’s some way to do that.”

“It’s a casual gathering place, where people can not only get produce from the person who grew it but can visit with their friends, get a cup of coffee and sit and listen to our musicians.”

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Market manager and farmer Aileen Bost, left, helps Maralyn Bullion bag turnip greens on a recent morning at the Mid-Town Farmers Market./Errol Castens

Oxford City Market is in its second year of operation on West Oxford Loop. An entity of the City of Oxford, it is open Tuesdays from 3 to 6:30 p.m.

OCM vendor Sara Garrett said she and her husband grow almost everything they eat, including meat, dairy, poultry and produce.

“This is an extension of our farm that we’d like to share with our community,” she said one recent Tuesday afternoon. “I’ve sold out of eggs, but I’ve gotten to have great conversations with people, and that’s my favorite part. This is kind of my treat, because I work all week long on the farm, and I get to share my harvest and talk to people.”

Daniel Wicker sells certified organic vegetables at both markets from his family’s Sunlight Springs Farm.

“It’s easy to get off work and come by this side of town,” he said at OCM recently. “And Saturday mornings at Mid-Town are mostly a different set of people. I’m thankful to have both markets.”

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About Errol Castens

I'm a news reporter and columnist for the Daily Journal and the Oxford Citizen. Focusing on Oxford and Lafayette County, I've been a part of the L-O-U community since 1991.