Business News for the Mississippi Delta

Eating Fresh With Your Local Farmer’s Markets

By Angela Rogalski

Photos courtesy of Ryan Betz & Greenville Farmer’s Marke

Being conscious of what we put into our bodies has become very important to most of us these days. With additives and preservatives and genetically modified foods filling our grocery shelves, buying locally-grown, fresh fruits and vegetables from Farmer’s Markets is an option that more and more people are choosing. And fresh is not only healthier; it’s delicious.

The Cleveland Farmer’s Market is going strong with summer upon us and has a variety of fruits, vegetables and other great food, plant and gift items, including something brand new this season that is a big hit at the Market with customers: fresh, homemade bagels.

Ryan Betz is volunteer market manager and says business has been booming since the Market opened up this season in mid-May.

“We’re now in our new location, right in the heart of downtown Cleveland,” Betz says. “We’re right off of the walking trail, on the north side, close to Hwy. 8. The move to the new space for us has just been phenomenal. It’s really been a boon to the Market because downtown Cleveland is just a beautiful location to begin with, but the visibility of the Market has improved and from the vendors to the customers, everyone just loves the setting. It’s picturesque and has the traditional downtown Market theme. Everyone loves it.”

Betz says the Cleveland Farmer’s Market is open on Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and also now on Thursday, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. These hours will be good until sometime in September when the current season ends.

“We usually wrap things up in early fall,” he adds. “But right now we are going strong and have an abundance of fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables. We’ve been fortunate to tap into a really great farm down in Flora, Miss., which helped us tremendously during the early markets, but now home gardeners and Market gardeners are starting to have their produce. Recently we had vendors who had a lot of the summer staples that you would expect in the Delta: yellow squash, zucchini squash, bell peppers, and definitely green tomatoes, with a few first red ones as well. And tomatoes are like the rock stars of the Farmer’s Market. And you can never get too many fresh, sun-ripened homegrown tomatoes.”

Betz says that the newest member of their Farmer’s Market family, Big River Bagels, was proving to be a huge hit with everyone.

“These bagels are phenomenal. They are legit homemade, delicious bagels and they sell out every Market. They have really become a popular item every time. We also have vendors who are doing baked goods, canned goods; just a wide variety of baked and canned goods, in addition to the great produce. We even have some people doing the traditional foods from other countries like baklava, hummus and tabbouleh salad. So, it’s a great mix of a lot of different things.”

Glen Stevens and his wife, Beth, co-manage the Downtown Greenwood Farmer’s Market in Greenwood. Stevens says that the Greenwood Farmer’s Market has grown tremendously in the past year and has increased their number of vendors greatly.

“We’re in the process right now of having a permanent pavilion built for our Farmer’s Market,” Stevens says. “It’s part of a linear park that’s being built through Greenwood. And we’ll most likely be in our new location there next season. For this season we’ll remain in our present location on Front Street.”

Stevens says last year was a tough year due to the weather and crops not coming in as expected, but this season so far is great and shows potential of staying that way.

“We had more produce available early in the season than we’ve had in the past. And our Market traffic this year has been unbelievably good. We have noticed a tremendous increase in our customer traffic and we’re very excited by the interest people have in eating fresher and healthier.”

The Downtown Greenwood Farmer’s Market is open each Saturday from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and Stevens says people like the hours and the traditional Saturday morning outing of visiting the Market.

“From week one this year, we’ve had great traffic and a lot of it has been our loyal customers,” he adds. “That’s what they do on Saturday mornings. They get up and come to the Market and buy their produce for the week, then come back the following Saturday and do it again. And we appreciate them so much. One of newest vendors this year that we’re excited about sharing with our customers is Kin Growers from Rolling Fork and they’re offering fresh milk, both white and chocolate. And they hope to expand to cheese and butter at some point.”

Daniel Boggs is CEO of Greater Greenville Development Foundation, Inc. and Greater Greenville Housing and Revitalization Association, Inc.

“We’re a 501 (c) non-profit organization and we have a subsidiary company called Mainstreet Greenville. We have been partners with the city of Greenville and Washington County since we were incorporated and we administer several programs on behalf of the city and the county, including the Greenville Farmer’s Market.”

The Greenville Farmer’s Market is located at 783 Washington Ave. and is open on Wednesday and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m.

“However, Saturday is our biggest day. We have inflatables and people who cook hot lunches,” Boggs says. “It’s really more of a social event where we encourage people to come out and be a part of a community day as well as picking up the freshest fruits and vegetables around.”

Boggs adds that the fellowship and camaraderie of the local farmer’s market is something that people really enjoy everywhere and of course, the delicious produce and other items that are sold.

“We also have vendors who sell items such as pickled okra, homemade dill and sweet pickles, and a whole lot of homemade canned goods. We have one vendor who makes a wide variety of jams and jellies, anything from Jalapeno Mustard to Apple Butter. They’re amazing.”

Boggs believes that the positive financial impact that a local farmer’s market has on its community is extremely important to everyone.

“We usually have a few hundred people that come through our Market every time is open,” Boggs says. “As a non-profit organization, we understand the importance of what a farmer’s market can do, not only by providing fresh fruits and vegetables to a community, but also helping to offset the incomes of some of these small farmers. In a community that has 38 percent poverty and 18 percent unemployment, the farmer’s market is not only a community event; it’s also a way of making a living for some of our smaller farmers in the Mississippi Delta. We realize the importance of it and we’re actually making a commitment in the next couple of years to increase the visibility of our Greenville Farmer’s Market. And try to enhance it. It’s just that vital.”