Farmers market is a growing success

By Tom Joyce - tjoyce@mtairynews.com
Mickey McGuire buys squash from Hannah Haynes Johnson of Haynes Farms at Dobson during the Mount Airy Farmers Market Friday, as Kenneth Key of the farm (right) sorts cucumbers. - Tom Joyce | The News
The Farm, another Dobson-area operation, has a table full of fresh produce for sale. - Tom Joyce | The News

On a humid morning with temperatures already reaching the low 80s, fresh produce proved to be a hot commodity Friday at the Mount Airy Farmers Market.

Activity was brisk at the market site on South Main Street, a parking lot beside the city post office, a sure sign that along with summer officially being here, so are the bounties of the season harvested on area farms.

“At this time of year, obviously you want fresh produce,” Mickey McGuire, of Mount Airy, said as he perused the lot containing a row of vendors offering such items as cucumbers, squash, broccoli, zucchini and greens — even some labeled as “microgreens.”

“And what better place to come than the farmers market here in downtown Mount Airy?” added McGuire, who had just bought squash from one of about 10 vendor stations operating there and was checking his list for other items desired.

“I’m looking for corn, tomatoes,” he said, “peaches, too.”

After getting under way in April, the Mount Airy Farmers Market appears to be hitting its stride as the growing season flexes its muscles.

“Our produce vendors are now in full swing,” said Jennifer Anderson, secretary of the governing board for the Surry County Farmers Market program that also includes locations in Dobson and Elkin which are open on Thursdays and Saturdays, respectively.

The Mount Airy Farmers Market operates each Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with this year’s schedule running from April 20 to Oct. 19.

Vendors from both Surry County and Virginia were spotted at this week’s market.

Haynes Farms of Dobson is participating in it for the first time this year, and reaping benefits from its involvement, said Hannah Haynes Johnson of that operation. One positive aspect of the market is its down-home approach that brings buyer and seller together without middle men.

“I think it’s amazing for people to see people they know and get their produce from a familiar face,” Johnson said.

Among her top sellers Friday were squash, zucchini, broccoli and cucumbers, with more in the offing. “Tomatoes are coming in,” Johnson said, “and sweet corn.”

From the standpoint of a market customer, McGuire said he also appreciates its home-grown aspect, shortly after buying squash from Johnson.

“You’re getting fresh produce and also helping some local people,” he said. “It’s a two-way street.”

Johnson said Haynes Farms additionally raises beef cattle and poultry and the market is boosting its produce component, which depends on social media as another sales medium.

Along with the produce offered at the Mount Airy Farmers Market Friday, flowers, plants, honey, goat milk soap, wooden bowls and other products were available — including the microgreens.

“They are baby greens,” Damian Porter said in response to curious stares by market attendees at the spot where Mohill Inc. of Mount Airy was selling the tiny edibles.

Porter, formerly of Jamaica, said the microgreens have a harvest period of seven to 15 days.

“They are way more healthy for you,” he said of the nutrient-rich food source that results.

Anderson, the secretary of the farmers market board, said she is pleased with the success achieved at the Mount Airy site, which represents a new venue.

The parking lot beside the post office had hosted the market in years past, which was halted when the lot was closed for repairs in January 2014.

This resulted in the market operating in the parking lot of Mill Creek General Store on West Pine Street until moving back to its old, and more-spacious, location this year.

That has required a bit of adjustment for market customers, not only due to the move but the fact that it is running on a different day than when based at Mill Creek General Store. “It was kind of a double whammy,” Anderson said.

“It was a big switch, but we needed the room.” Growth of the farmers market in recent years has coincided with an increasing appetite among local consumers for healthier food options from sources close to home.

Anderson said customers gradually have re-connected with the market at the post office site and it is prospering as a result.

“It’s going really well now,” she said. “It’s really picked up in the last few weeks.”

Mickey McGuire buys squash from Hannah Haynes Johnson of Haynes Farms at Dobson during the Mount Airy Farmers Market Friday, as Kenneth Key of the farm (right) sorts cucumbers.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_Grow-this-1.jpgMickey McGuire buys squash from Hannah Haynes Johnson of Haynes Farms at Dobson during the Mount Airy Farmers Market Friday, as Kenneth Key of the farm (right) sorts cucumbers.Tom Joyce | The News

The Farm, another Dobson-area operation, has a table full of fresh produce for sale.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_Grow-this-2.jpgThe Farm, another Dobson-area operation, has a table full of fresh produce for sale.Tom Joyce | The News

By Tom Joyce

tjoyce@mtairynews.com

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.