On May 31, Henry County’s Farmer’s Market, sponsored by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, kicked off its fourth season. The market takes place on Thursdays from 2 to 6 p.m. through September.
Frank Hancock, one of the market’s coordinators, said the market was formed on a whim four years ago.
“We have several local farmers and put the word out to see what would happen,” he said. “We got a pretty good response.”
The response from the local farmers yielded an average of 11 vendors and 264 customers per market in 2009.
Today, the market continues to provide residents an alternative to produce and goods offered at grocery stores, including fresh breads, baked goods, eggs and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
“We have some folks that specialize in growing tomatoes,” Hancock said. “We’ve also had sweet corn for the past two weeks, as well as watermelon, cucumbers, peppers and squash.”
Additionally, craft items, such as homemade soaps, jellies and honey are also sold.
One aspect of the Henry County Farmer’s Market that differentiates it from the pack is a requirement for all involved vendors.
“We participate in a food safety training program that is designed to enlighten farmers and give them some guidelines on how to handle their produce and make it as safe as possible,” Hancock said.
This is a pilot program and is mandatory for all produce vendors that want to participate in the market.
Since 2009, levels of attendance have varied.
While 2010 saw an average of 13 vendors and 342 residents per week, the amount of residents dipped last year to 210 per week and the vendors increased to 16.
“I think the reason that [attendance] was down in 2011 was because the weather was bad,” Hancock said. “Our market didn’t have as many fresh vegetables as it has now and in 2010. You are at the mercy of what your production looks like.”