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Farmers market continues Thursday

Features Editor

Opening day at the Pioneer Farmers Market Saturday at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama was a great success, from both sides of the vegetable wagons.

Shoppers benefited from the labors of six producers. The early birds when home with bags of fresh picked produce, the vendors went home with empty wagons and the johnny-come-latelys went home empty handed.

Don Wambles, administrator of the Alabama Farmers Market Authority, said shoppers who came early had the best choice of farm fresh vegetables.

"By 9 o’clock most of the farmers had sold out of produce," Wambles said. "Organizers estimated that more than 300 shoppers attended opening day at the market. I was very pleased with the diversity of the shoppers."

The shoppers included senior citizens who are participating in the Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program, other seniors, families and business professionals.

Wambles said most of the producers said their intake was about 50 percent nutrition program vouchers and 50 percent cash sales.

"This is a great balance for a new market, especially on opening day," Wambles said. "We strive to achieve 70 percent cash sales and 30 percent voucher sales at the markets."

Wambles said 1,000 vouchers totally $20,000 have been allocated to eligible senior citizens in Pike County.

"Right now, we have issued about 600 vouchers and we will continue to register eligible seniors until we reach 1,000, probably around the end of June," he said.

Seniors may register at the nutrition centers in Troy and Brundidge from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. To be eligible one must be 60 years old or older and who meet income requirements.

Dax Pugh said about two-thirds of his sales were to shoppers with vouchers. However, he said shoppers didn’t spend their entire allotment of vouchers.

"They were using two or three vouchers and just getting what they could use in a few day’s time," he said. "Those who were buying with cash were buying the same way."

Pugh said he was pleased with opening day at the market and now has a better idea of the amount of produce he needs to take to market.

So does Frank Bryan.

"I sold out of corn in a hurry," he said. "I’ll take a bigger load next time."

Bryan also was pleased with the activity on opening day, but is a bit concerned about future markets.

"If we get some rain, we’ll have produce to sell," he said. "If we don’t get some rain, we could be in trouble. Right now, it’s just too dry and we don’t have the quantity we would have if we had gotten rain. Whether we get rain will tell the tale."

The Pioneer Farmers Market will be open every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday through late October except on Thursday, July 4.

All produce is locally grown and guaranteed farm fresh. The market opens at 7 a.m. and producers pull out when their wagon is empty.

"People need to realize that those who come early get the pick of the crops," said Charlotte Gibson, director of the Pioneer Museum of Alabama. "We had a lot of people who came around and after lunch Saturday looking for the farmers market. So, everyone needs to come early."

Wambles expressed appreciation to the people of Troy and Pike County for supporting the market and local producers.

"The continued support of Troy and Pike County residents will determine the future success of the market," Wambles said. "Shoppers can expect the variety and quantity of products to increased over the next two weeks."

What shoppers can expect at this week’s market is peas, butterbeans, tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, yellow squash, zucchini, eight ball squash, herbs, potatoes, onions, peppers, sweet corn, field corn, okra and eggplant.