Our view: 'King Tomato' still fueling farmers' market turnouts

August 23, 2013 10:17:06 AM



It's been a good year for watermelons, peppers and cucumbers and a not-so-good year for cantaloupes and squash. After a poor early season, tomatoes have rallied. 


All things considered, it's been a good year for the Golden Triangle's farmers' markets. 


West Point's market closed about two weeks ago while the Starkville Community Market, which for the first time extended its schedule through August, will close shop Saturday. The Hitching Lot Farmers' Market in Columbus will stay open until the end of October. The market is open Monday (4-6 p.m.), Thursdays (7-10 am.) and Saturdays (7-10 a.m.) 


How brisk business will remain depends on the tomato, which farmers' market followers acknowledge as the King of the Produce. Once the tomatoes start playing out, the trade at the farmers' markets begins to diminish. 


Mel Ellis, probably the biggest supplier of tomatoes in the area, says he figures he'll have enough tomatoes to last for a couple to three weeks, maybe even into September. 


That's good news for tomato lovers and vendors alike. 


There has been a growing trend in the U.S. to buy locally-produced foods, a trend we endorse for a couple of reasons. First, there is really no substitute for "home-grown" fruits and vegetables. They are almost always far fresher than what you find at the big grocery stores. You also have the benefit of knowing where those vegetables came from.  


Beyond that, buying locally ensures the money stays at home. When you buy a bunch of peas at a farmers' market, none of the profits are going to a corporate office in New York. So, the money stays here and is spent here. It stimulates the local economy. 


There is also another dynamic at work when you patronize farmers' markets: You meet people. You talk. You share stories and information. If you are at all curious, you are bound to learn something interesting. 


Farmers' markets, like high school football games and church services, are among those few remaining places that can rightly be called a community meeting place. There is something unifying about doing business with your neighbors, something that previous generations simply took for granted. 


For that reason, we encourage you to shop at our farmers' markets.  


You had better hurry, too. 


The tomatoes can't hold out forever, you know.