First farmers market deemed success

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 14, 2008

Before it was all over, almost every grower at Brookhaven’sfirst farmers market Friday was out of produce, organizerssaid.

“Most of the producers sold out by 11 (a.m.),” said MississippiState University Extension Service County Director Rebecca Bates.”We had more customers than produce.”

The Extension Service and the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber ofCommerce were both instrumental in starting up the farmers market,which kicked off a week early because some producers were chompingat the bit to get the marketplace under way.

Bates said she and Chamber Executive Vice President Cliff Brumfielddidn’t know exactly what to expect for the first week, but that theoutcome was more than they – or the growers – could have askedfor.

“I don’t think they knew how it was going to go, and Cliff and Ididn’t know either,” she said. “We expected to just do it to seehow it went, and we didn’t know if we would have too much or notenough, or would the public respond. But I don’t think it couldhave been any better.”

Producers like Paul Walker, who lives on Highway 550, said theywere happy with the first week and planned to make it a weeklyevent indefinitely.

Walker said he usually gave his extra produce to neighbors. Butwith the creation of the farmers market, he’s decided to startbringing his extra produce downtown on Fridays.

“I thought I’d bring some to the farmers market to help withexpense on fertilizer,” he said. “This will give people anopportunity to get fresh vegetables closer to home.”

In addition to other farmers who are planning to start thisupcoming Friday, Bates said she spoke with people who came by tosee how the market turned out and now are looking to get into thelineup for next week.

“We had several producers that I’d talked to in weeks past thatjust showed up to check it out,” she said. “All were pleased andsaid it would be worth their while to start coming.”

Some customers were even ordering ahead on Friday, Bates said, ifwhat they wanted was sold out or if the grower had a crop theyhadn’t brought to the market.

“That’s a possibility too, if you want a whole bushel ofbutterbeans and they don’t have that on hand, or if you wantcertain items that aren’t quite ready this week but might be thenext week, you can order them ahead,” Bates said.

And producers are making plans for a bigger turnout in comingweeks. Walker said he’s even planning a fall garden to accommodatethe later weeks of the farmers market. He said he’ll at least havebutterbeans and okra, and maybe other fall vegetables too.

Brumfield said the market would be held on Fridays through the endof the summer growing season. The market in expected to resumeduring future growing seasons in the fall and spring.

Farmers planning to set up at the Friday market sessions are urgedto contact the Extension Service to inform them of their attendanceand to get guidelines about the events, Brumfield said. There is nocharge for farmer to set up at the market.

Bates said in addition to being a positive experience for farmersto make money on their produce and buyers to save money and gasgetting fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, the farmersmarket was also a lot of fun for everyone in attendance.

“It was amazing. It was a great experience I thought, and it seemedlike everyone was having so much fun,” she said. “It was festiveand people were not only buying produce but getting together andvisiting and that kind of thing. We’re definitely looking forwardto next week.”