With her waist apron featuring the slogan “Farm fresh — locally grown,” Jenny Gilbert delights in being part of the Cartersville Farmer’s Market community. For the Acworth resident, this is the ninth year her Gilbert Farms operation has sold its products at the downtown staple.
“I definitely look forward to the market season each year,” Gilbert said. “It’s nice to see familiar faces that I haven’t seen during the winter months. I have quite a few regular customers, and it’s a chance to catch up with what’s happening in their lives. I think that’s what I enjoy most about the market — the people that you meet there.
“The market is a great place for farmers like myself, who do this for a living, to sell locally grown products. It also offers an opportunity for backyard farmers to make extra money. For the customers, they know they are supporting family farms in their hometown. By buying local, you get the freshest produce — or in my case, flowers as well — that haven’t been picked green, ripened in a box and been trucked in from who knows where.”
Owned by Gilbert and her husband, Bob, Gilbert Farms produces vegetables, fruits and flowers, with plans in the works for a winery.
“We began farming on my husband’s family property in 1996,” Gilbert said. “We started growing cut flowers on about an acre of land and have expanded to 14 acres of irrigated fields. We initially just grew flowers and the vegetables were for our personal consumption. The vegetable operation was expanded in 2009 to accommodate our venture into the farmer’s market arena. We have recently added a 2.5 acre vineyard and are applying for our permits to become a small farm winery.
“... I have had for sale this year the usual cucumbers, squash, zucchini, green beans, corn, tomatoes and cantaloupe,” she said, referring to Cartersville Farmer’s Market. “I offer a mixed bouquet of flowers, sunflowers and celosia bouquets. My biggest selling item this year, besides the flowers, have been my cantaloupe. I definitely have had numerous repeat customers. I love it when I get asked if I grew the cantaloupe. I just smile and say with pride, ‘I grow everything you see here.’”
Presented by the Cartersville Downtown Development Authority, the Cartersville Farmer’s Market operates Wednesdays, 4 to 8 p.m., and Saturdays, 7 a.m. to noon, through Oct. 25 — except for the first Saturday in October — at Founder’s Oak parking lot on North Public Square.
“This year, the market is being received well from the public,” Cartersville DDA Manager Lillie Read said. “When you arrive at the farmer’s market, you will be greeted by a riot of colors and products. Newly cut flowers, just-picked produce and freshly baked bread, along with smiling faces and friendly vendors, line the parking lot where the market is held. The vendors set up their tents around the outer ring of the Founder’s Oak parking lot, which gives room for customers to browse the booths comfortably. The vibrant produce, beautiful crafts and delicious homemade goods make for an interesting scene, and there is always something new to see.
“The busiest times are on Saturday mornings, where the action starts as early as 8 a.m. There are 62 vendors participating to date, each with their own unique products and personality. New registrations have tapered off now that we’re in the midst of the growing season but each year brings more vendors and more options to our market.”
With vendors displaying a wide array of produce, Bartow County Extension Coordinator Paul Pugliese advises shoppers to look beyond the items’ appearances this year.
“For the remainder of the summer, local market vendors should have a good variety of corn, Southern peas, okra, peppers, watermelons and tomatoes,” Pugliese said. “If any of the market vendors planted successional crops, most summer vegetables could be available until the first frost in the fall. We’ve had an above normal season for rain in contrast to last year’s exceptional drought. The local weather station has documented over 95 rainy days this year and roughly a 5-inch surplus in rain.
“This has been a challenge for growing many fruits and vegetables, with an increase in fungal diseases and fruit rots. When buying local produce this year, consumers should lower their expectations and not expect them to look perfect. Fruits and vegetables are still fine to eat with a few blemishes or cracks in the fruit. You can always cut out the bad spots and if it’s going into a canner or a casserole, then appearances don’t really matter. Sometimes, the best tasting tomato is the ugliest tomato.”
Started in the early 1980s, the Cartersville Farmer’s Market was spearheaded by the late Bartow County Extension Agent Walter Culverhouse to help local farmers sell their excess produce. Through the years, the market has expanded its offerings to now also feature flowers, organic produce, canned goods, jellies, herbs, baked goods and craft items.
“The market has evolved to include a wide variety of handcrafted, Georgia-grown products,” Read said. “These products range from crochet blankets, to hand-roasted coffee, homemade sweets and produce. We like to keep our market full of diverse offerings in order to help grow its benefit to the community. Now, shoppers can come to the market not just to buy food to cook for dinner, but to buy other products and crafts. We are very excited not only to keep the produce component of the farmer’s market vibrant but to grow our craft offerings as well.
“... It is important that the DDA continues to support the farmer’s market because having a resource for locally grown food is essential for the community, not only to promote the health benefits that come when you shop local and eat fresh, but to help encourage awareness of where food comes from. We want to provide an outlet for small growers and producers, as well as for creative individuals who build and create interesting and inspired items.”
As in past years, the Saturday markets are accompanied by special offerings, such as the Aug. 19 cooking demonstration with Johnny Mitchell.
For more information about the Cartersville Farmer’s Market, visit http://downtowncartersville.org or www.facebook.com/cartersvilledowntown or contact the Cartersville DDA at 770-607-3480.
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