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Skaggs: Farmers Market prepares for busy season
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Recently, the Hall County Farmers Market held its annual membership meeting to make plans for the coming year and to set the opening day. Opening day is Tuesday, May 11, and the first Saturday of the year will be May 15.

The meeting room was bustling with excitement as farmers, gardeners and vendors are awaiting the 2010 season with great anticipation. Despite a down economy and the daily gloom-and-doom news reports, the market members are optimistic that this season will be a good one.

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 operating in the U.S. and 30 or more independent farmers’ markets in Georgia.

If you’re thinking of selling at farmers market this year, Georgia Organics, a longtime supporter of organic production and local markets, offers the following tips:

  • Farmers should bring only high-quality produce to the market.
  • Display produce in an attractive and eye-catching manner.
  • It’s all about relationships — talk to the customers, be friendly and courteous.
  • Ask a fair price, be reasonable and don’t undercut fellow farmers.

In Hall County and across Northeast Georgia, a wide range of commodities are grown, including apples, beans, bell peppers, blueberries, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, grapes, greens, melons, okra, onions, peaches, peas, pecans, pumpkins, snap beans, strawberries, sweet corn, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

And fortunately for those of us who are not farmers, we have access to all these great farm products at the Hall County Farmers Market, located on the corner of East Crescent Drive and Jesse Jewel Parkway near Interstate 985, Exit 24.

The market will be opening in May, and the farmers are looking forward to another productive year.

Billy Skaggs is a Hall County extension agent. He can be reached at 770-531-6988. His column on agribusiness appears biweekly and at gainesvilletimes.com.

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