Local growers celebrate 20 years
at Meridian Farmers Market
By By Steve Strong / horticulture columnist
May 21, 2003
Squash, potatoes, and green beans are starting to ripen, and that means that the Meridian Area Farmers Market is about to open.
Local vegetable producers are already harvesting spring crops and are planning to set up at the downtown market during the next few days.
The Farmers Market is on Front Street next to the Union Station train depot under the 18th Avenue bridge. The 2003 growing season marks the 20th year in operation for the area market, which offers homegrown vine-ripened produce at wholesale prices.
The market will be open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m.-5 p.m., and it is a good idea to get there early for the best selection. The growers usually arrive as early as possible to sell their homegrown fruits and vegetables while they are at the peak of freshness.
Different varieties of produce will become available as the season progresses, and the same selections may not be offered every day of the week. Consumers can check to see what is being offered by calling the growers during market hours at 484-3988, or by contacting the county Extension Service office at 482-9764.
Irish potatoes, onions and squash are always among the first warm-season crops to arrive, in addition to sugar snaps and other types of green beans. While June 1 is the official opening day for the Meridian Area Farmers Market, it is normally a few weeks later before ripe tomatoes, peppers and corn are harvested.
Watermelons should be ready in plenty of time for Fourth of July picnics, along with fresh peaches and blueberries from nearby orchards. Over-abundant rainfall may cause okra to be a little late this summer, though, and may also result in late planting of root crops like peanuts and sweet potatoes.
Farm fresh eggs are one new product provided by local producers this summer, and there may be other items such as honey, fresh herbs or pepper sauce available, too. One thing is for sure: The area growers are committed to offering only homegrown produce from the local area (no refrigerated trucks, please), and buyers will be able to taste the difference at the dinner table.
Any fruit or vegetable grower from East Central Mississippi or West Alabama is welcome to join the Meridian Area Farmers Market Association, and the yearly membership is just $30. Producers are required to show proof of liability insurance, and are expected to adhere to an honor code of conduct and market operation determined by the growers.
Prices also are set by the growers and are subject to change during the season as wholesale market prices in the two-state area fluctuate. Birmingham and Atlanta markets set the general price range for fresh produce, and prices are quite often discounted below those set by larger markets.
Make visiting the Meridian Area Farmers Market this summer a family experience, and show those young ones that groceries don't really grow in the grocery store. What better way to contribute to the local economy and to thank the city of Meridian for its continuing support and partnership with area producers in East Mississippi.