Business brisk at market

Published 9:40 pm Saturday, July 25, 2009

“Red and yellow, rose and green, purple and orange and blue” … sing the colorful displays of locally grown vegetables and fruits at Selma’s Farmer’s Market every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. On these early mornings, drivers turning into Bloch Park pause in admiration before parking and walking into the open-air structure.

Carrying bags and baskets to fill with their purchases, they move from stand to stand, chatting with proprietors and making selections from their stock. Smooth-skinned tomatoes, plump with juice, and shiny green peppers stand adjacent to baskets of okra and fresh-picked green beans, ready to be snapped. Bright yellow squash, unshelled lima beans and sweet potatoes almost beg to be prepared for supper, along with tiny new potatoes and ears of unshucked corn.

Dessert for these mid-summer meals is available for the choosing. Just outside the entrance to the market a pick-up truck is parked, its rear bed filled with fat green and white striped watermelons. Baskets of rosy-skinned peaches wait at almost every vendor’s table, almost begging to be purchased.

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One basket display attracts extra attention from the shoppers, who ask Pleasant Hill farmers Frank and Cecelia Culpepper Smith, “What kind of cantaloupe are these? The skin is a different texture and color.”

Cecelia Smith explains they are grown from seed sent by her sister, “but we aren’t sure of the name. I just know the fruit is delicious, sweet, juicy and pale cream in color.” She offers a sample of the cut melon to the shopper, who waxes enthusiastically about the flavor and purchases one.

Randy Chandler, whose picture-perfect peaches are from his orchard at Billingsley, is almost too busy filling bags for shoppers to chat. He says “the peaches are great this year.” So they are.

Nearby retired teacher Bill Woodson visits with Arlee Thomas and Sadie Johnson and speaks of his “new venture. I decided to try something new and I enjoy the fresh vegetables for my table and to sell.”

His table is filled with tomatoes, green peppers and sweet potatoes. Woodson also grows watermelons at the home of Elizabeth Kenan Buchanan, he says.

Margaret and Raymond Harris of Maplesville have tables of garden produce at the front entrance of the Market, which he has been part of since 2001. Margaret Harris says they have been farming for 15 years, rising at 5 a.m. to be at the market opening.

Their produce is picked the day before so it will be earth-fresh.

Across the aisle from the Harris table, Florence Cranmore, Valley Grande, has farmed “my whole life.” She brings to the market sweet potatoes, figs, peaches, tiny Concord grapes, okra, squash, green peppers and tomatoes.

She and the other vendors greet the steady stream of shoppers with smiles and friendliness, each enjoying the opportunity to share the products of their labor as well as the company of community neighbors.

“Freshly grown vegetables and fruit are not only delicious, they are also healthful,” said Woodson, obviously enjoying his “new venture. I’m glad I am doing it.”