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To market, to market: Area farmer's markets open to residents

Gary Collier prepares potatoes and green beans for Bob Jones, of Conyers, and Mickey Coley, of Lithonia, at the Rockdale Farmers’ Market. Collier has corn, potatoes and green beans loaded on the back of his truck to sell at the market. (Staff Photos: Michelle Floyd)

Gary Collier prepares potatoes and green beans for Bob Jones, of Conyers, and Mickey Coley, of Lithonia, at the Rockdale Farmers’ Market. Collier has corn, potatoes and green beans loaded on the back of his truck to sell at the market. (Staff Photos: Michelle Floyd)

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Fran and Kevin Surrette, of Oxford, pack up some okra for customers at the Rockdale market. The produce they had for sale came from their north Newton County garden — tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, butternut squash and peppers, among other items.

CONYERS — If you need to restart your New Year’s resolution to eat healthy, now is a good time.

Area farmers markets are open and ready to serve you locally-grown vegetables, fruits and herbs.

The Rockdale County Farmers Market opened in June at the Rockdale County government annex at 1400 Parker Road and will be open from 8 a.m. until noon Tuesdays and Saturdays until the last week in October. The Oxford Farmers Market also is open — on Emory Street near the post office. It is open Monday through Saturday year round, weather permitting.

“There is a lot of concern these days about locally grown produce and other foods. Most of the local farmers use very few or no pesticides,” said Kevin Surrette, whose family grows vegetables on a farm in north Newton County to sell at the Rockdale market and eventually also may sell them at the Oxford market this year.

The farmers who sell vegetables and fruits at the Rockdale market are from Rockdale, Newton and DeKalb counties. The Oxford market also is open to farmers and gardeners from Rockdale, Walton, Morgan, Jasper, Butts and Henry counties.

“This past week has been one of the best weeks that the farmers have had now that we are getting a little bit of sun, so it’s a good time to come to the farmers market,” said Jule-Lynn Macie, coordinator of the Rockdale County Cooperative Extension, adding that she recently had her first bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich with tomatoes from the market.

Farmers are selling items like tomatoes, potatoes, corn, green beans, squash, blackberries and zucchinis, among many other vegetables and fruits.

“We want people to appreciate healthier food,” said Roger Hatch, who helped start the Rockdale market 14 years ago.

Some farmers said the rainy season has put them behind and not allowed some of their foods to produce as much as in years past, but they are growing as much as they can for area residents.

“Buying locally-produced and minimally-processed fruits and vegetables is one good way to make sure that what we feed our families is healthy and wholesome,” Surrette said. “It’s also a great way to reduce calories and salt in our diets.”

The Rockdale Extension Office handles certification of the farmers and vendors in Rockdale market. Those interested should fill out a form to certify they are growing the food they are selling. By exception, they are able to sell other Georgia-grown peaches, watermelons, cantaloupes, Vidalia onions and apples because those things don’t grow locally or farmers aren’t growing them to sell, Macie said.

Those outside of Rockdale County must pay a $20 fee to be in the market, but Rockdale County residents may participate for free. Craft vendors also must sell vegetables or plants to participate in the market.

The Rockdale market also features non-food items, like hand-knit blankets and accessories from Loopy Things of Lithonia, plants and jewelry with Custom Jewelry by Wildflower and Pearl Lady and other dog food snacks, woodwork and glassware vendors.

For the Oxford market, residents can visit www.oxfordgeorgia.org for a market permit.