Sunday, August 30, 2009

Visiting the Downtown Reidsville Farmers' Market

This is my column for the paper next Sunday so the writing is a little more formal than my usual blog posts.

At the Downtown Reidsville Farmers’ Market, greetings and hugs seem to be exchanged nearly as often as money and vegetables. In the half hour or so I was there, I witnessed quite a few reunions of folks who hadn’t seen one another in a while and just happened to bump into each other while shopping for fresh, locally grown food. I visited on Saturday, August 29, the first Saturday the farmers were in their new location, Market Square. The structure is beautiful, with its heavy timbers supporting a roof that provides welcome shade on a hot August day.

I enjoyed talking to the vendors. Mattie Watkins of Caswell County had nearly sold out of vegetables by the time I arrived around 10 AM. Her family helps her raise a market garden on 7 acres. She offered green beans, patty pan squash, and green tomatoes. I’ve never seen green tomatoes for sale though I enjoy eating them fried. I thought it was a good novel idea.

At the next table down, Jeff Ward, 23, and Amanda Chriscoe, 22, stood out as the youngest vendors at the market. Both work for High Rock Farms, which mainly sells pecans and chestnuts, but also raises and sells blackberries, watermelons, and cantelopes. Amanda goes to school and works part-time at the farm, baking up goodies to sell, such as oatmeal pecan cookies.

Paul Sutton of Reidsville farms only 2-1/2 acres but grows an unbelievable number of crops that he brings to the market a couple of days a week. He has several varieties of apples and is happy to help customers choose the right ones for baking or fresh eating. He raises potatoes, pears, butter beans, peas, peppers, and raspberries, among other offerings. Paul is also a craftsman. I was so impressed with his solid wood step stools made with dowel construction that I bought one. Now our grandson can reach the sink to wash his hands and I can reach the bowls on the top shelf of the cabinet.

Paul said of the turnout on the first Saturday in the new location, “We’ve had some people who are not regulars and that’s good.” Gayle Niemczura of Reidsville, a regular at the market, was looking over his newly dug potatoes. According to Paul, “If you want choice, be early. If you come real late, you get real good deals.”

I met Marie King of Reidsville who was a first time visitor to the farmers’ market. She was making a trip to the post office when she caught sight of the “wonderful looking eggs” at the Massey Creek Farms table. She stopped to buy a dozen to go in zucchini bread she was baking that afternoon.

At the next table, Sue Barber was selling baked goods, pickles, and desserts while her husband sold fresh produce at the table beside her. Sue has 2 certified kitchens in her home where she bakes homemade treats like cheese basil bread. Stacie Dillard of Eden was shopping at Sue’s table. It was Stacie’s first trip to the market. “I wanted to come and see. I’m using my WIC vouchers.” Sue said, “You should have seen my table early this morning. I had stuff stacked up. I’m nearly out now.” Sue told me that customers show up as the vendors are unloading their wares, looking for the freshest food and best selections. “At the old location, they’d sometimes be there waiting for us when we showed up at 5:30 in the morning.”

The farmers’market in Market Square at 307 S. Scales Street is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from May until November, 6 AM until 1 PM. But get there early for the best selection!

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