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Skaggs: Summer means it is finally farmers market season

POSTED: June 17, 2010 3:18 p.m.

For those who have not visited before, a farmers market is a huge asset to the community.

A farmers market is a market in which producers from a local area gather to sell their own produce directly to the public, eliminating the "middleman."

By selling direct, the farmer is able to sell his or her product at a fair price and see a great return for their efforts. And in return, customers have the opportunity to support local agriculture and purchase the freshest food products available.

In addition, a farmers market is a low-cost way for a beginning farmer to learn about retailing and to develop marketing skills. The cost to participate is usually low, and at a good market there are plenty of customers.

Farmers markets have been increasing in popularity over the last 20 years as more and more consumers want to know where their food comes from. Specifically, the number of farmers markets in the U.S. has grown 79 percent from 1994-2002. There are approximately 3,500 farmers markets presently operating in the US and 50 or more independent farmers markets in Georgia

The rise in the number of farmers markets in Georgia and across the nation is attributable to several factors, including the increased interest in local food, consumers' desire to purchase the freshest produce available and recent food safety scares.

It's worth recognizing and remembering the varieties of farm fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables produced in Georgia throughout the year. Sixteen commodities top the production chart in Georgia, including apples, beans, bell peppers, blueberries, cabbage, carrots, chili peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, grapes, greens, melons and cantaloupe, okra, onions, peaches, peas, pecans, pumpkins, snap beans, strawberries, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips and last but certainly not least, Vidalia onions.

The Hall County Farmers Market provides local residents a direct line to locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Created in 1973, the Hall County Farmers Market days of operation of the market begin at 6 a.m. Tuesdays and 7 a.m. Saturdays. The market is located on the corner of East Crescent Drive and Jesse Jewel Parkway, near Interstate 985 at Exit 24.

Many of the traditional summer favorites have started coming in, such as squash, cucumbers, green beans and peaches. Of course, it wouldn't be summertime at the market without tomatoes, corn, okra and watermelons, and rest assured, these items will be coming in soon.

In addition, two other Farmers Markets are available for your shopping pleasure. The Friday afternoon Farmers Market on the Gainesville Square is under way and is open from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. weekly. And for those of you in South Hall, the new Spout Springs Library Farmers Market is open from 4 to 7 p.m. every Thursday in the library parking lot.

For more information on the Hall County Farmers Market, call the Extension office at 770-535-8293. And for more information on all three markets, visit www.hallfarmers.org.

Billy Skaggs is agriculture agent and county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293. His column appears biweekly on Thursday's Business page and at gainesvilletimes.com.



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