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Farmers Market opens for season

MarketOpens_05Now that spring has sprung, the Paris Farmers Market is once again open and ready for business on Saturdays through the fall.

The market held its first weekend sale of the year Saturday. The market is mainly open 8 a.m. to noon each Saturday from May through October, although some farmers also sell during the week during peak growing seasons. It’s a good idea to get their early, as the best produce sells out quickly.

“When the gardens are going full blown, people can get fresh vegetables and fresh eggs better than store bought,” said Kathy Mariner, the Egg Lady. “We have activities to keep people involved and do fun things for the kids.”

The market also gives a place for small farmers to sell their produce at a profitable margin more easily, Evelyn Walker with Weybap Farm said. Small farmers make up one of the fastest growing groups in agriculture.

“It builds our local community,” she said. “You get to know where your food is coming from. You get to actually know who is growing your food, and I think that is important.”

The food is fresher and healthier when it’s grown and sold locally rather than shipped cross-country, said Dean Todd with Todd Farms.

Carolyn Gibson of Gibson’s Garden agreed.

“It’s important for our customers because we can bring them fresh items,” she said. “It gives them a chance to get out of the grocery store.”

Lamar County Master Gardeners were also on hand for their annual plant sale. Funds raised help to pay for projects such as the Becky Skinner Memorial Rose Garden, Betty Lyke Children’s Garden at the fairgrounds, a demonstration garden at the county extension office and various programs with schools and garden clubs.

Paris has had a farmers market since the 1920s. It was originally on the square. When J.J. Culbertson donated the fountain on the Plaza, he dedicated the current site at 400 1st St SW as the new market, Main Street Coordinator Cheri Bedford said.

Kelly’s Produce was the only one operating out of the market for some time until Bedford, Pat Bell and Mary Clark started actively pursuing new vendors. The Saturday market was instituted in 2010.

“Over the past four years, it’s been amazing,” Bedford said. “We started with seven vendors in addition to Kelly’s. Now we completely fill the market, which has 28 covered stalls.”

Not only are vendors coming in, but they’re returning. This marks the fourth year for Weybap Farms to sell at the market, and the third year for Gibson’s Garden and Todd Farms.

“We have a large garden,” Todd said. “We enjoy meeting people and having fresh products to sell to the community.”

The annual tradition has proven beneficial to shoppers and producers alike.

“We’re gaining momentum,” Bedford said. “We’ve had vendors who want to come sell from as far away as Antlers, Okla. So word is getting out about how good our market is.”

People travel from other communities to shop here, as well, but the real benefit is local people buying local, she said. About 68 percent of each dollar spent in the community comes back and circulates more, Bedford said.

“People understand that, and they want to support the community,” she said.

That’s not the only reason they venture out on a Saturday morning.

“It’s just plain fun to come down and talk to people,” Walker said.

For more information, visit the Farmers Market on Facebook or call 903-784-9293.

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