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Local farmers expect a bumper crop of customers
Hall County Farmers Market opens Tuesday
Flowers bloom on a kiwi vine at Shook’s Family Farm in Cleveland Sunday. Although the Hall County Farmers Market opens Tuesday, the family’s crops will not be ready for harvest until mid-June. - photo by SARA GUEVARA
Hall County Farmers Market
When: 6 a.m. until sellout Tuesdays, 7 a.m. until sellout Saturdays
Where: East Crescent Drive and Jesse Jewell Parkway, near I-985 in Gainesville

The Hall County Farmers Market will hold its first market of the season Tuesday morning, and local farmers say they are ready for another banner year.

Over the past few years, more and more people have started shopping at the farmers market as they become interested in buying local produce.

Clarkesville farmer Ronnie Mathis said he thinks the recent problems with contaminated produce, such as tomatoes infected with salmonella in 2008, have made people more aware of where their food comes from and how it is grown.

“People have finally begun to realize that they see us from week to week,” Mathis said. “We take good care of the stuff we grow and take pride in what we do. We have better stuff than what you can buy in probably most stores. It’s harvested one day and sold the next.”

Angel Rushing of Shook’s Family Farm in Cleveland said she, too, has noticed more people have been shopping at the farmers market in recent years.

“We planted more this year than we did before because the demand’s gone up,” Rushing said.

She said they also planted different types of fruits and vegetables, and will be selling things like European squash and kiwi this year.

“It’s really neat the things you can find,” Rushing said. “We’re always trying to add more variety.”

Rushing said most of her crops will not be ready for harvest until mid-June.

Ed Cooper, president of the Hall County Farmers Market, said people will mostly find cold-weather crops like broccoli, radishes and celery if they shop Tuesday. It likely will be a few more weeks before summer crops like green beans and tomatoes are for sale.

The farmers market is open throughout the summer beginning at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday mornings and 7:30 a.m. Saturday mornings. It is located on the corner of East Crescent Drive and Jesse Jewel Parkway near Interstate 985, Exit 24.

Cooper said many of the farmers at the Hall County Farmers Market have a crop that they grow particularly well. For Cooper, it’s melons.

He said his father grew watermelons and cantaloupes, and he learned everything he knows about farming from him.

“It’s kind of in your blood,” Cooper said. “You just kind of find your niche and hold onto it.”