When: Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., April 26 till Oct. 25, 2014.
Where: The historic Hernando Court Square (2535 Highway 51 South)
Why: It was named Mississippi’s favorite farmers market for three years running, for 2010, 2011 and 2012. And it’s ranked 5th nationwide for large markets.
The growing season for fresh vegetables and fruit is fast approaching, Mississippi.
Local markets in Oxford will open in May, but before that, the large Hernando Farmers Market will start selling in April.
The farmers market is where locals gather Saturdays from April till October. Shoppers will find anywhere from 35 to 55 vendors in the Hernando Court Square. Most vendors sell produce and homemade food, and artisans all create handmade pieces themselves; resellers are not permitted at the market. That’s a major part of what makes it so special.
Brown Family Dairy, of Oxford, brings milk to the market every Saturday. The farm also sells cream, crème fraiche and yogurt, and on occasion has fresh sausage, or pork or beef.
“The milkman is there at 9 a.m.,” said Leigh Willis, the farmers market’s manager. “But he’s usually sold out of 200-plus half gallons of milk by 11 a.m.”
The dairy farm, started by Billy Ray Brown and his family, has been lauded in a documentary and articles in multiple magazines and newspapers including The New York Times. Brown’s father is the late Oxford native Larry Brown, a short-story writer and novelist known for his gritty realism.
Other farmers and horticultural specialists sell food and plants from across Northern Mississippi.
Terry Massey at Wild Goose Farms brings “the best sweet corn this side of the Mason-Dixon,” Willis said.
Other big sellers are the fresh Pontotoc peaches from Cherry Creek Orchard out of Pontotoc, and vegan products and goat’s milk soap from Daily Blessings Farm.
The artisanal crafts you’ll find at the farmers market run the gamut: Wooden toys, glass bottle hummingbird feeders and wind chimes, berry bowl colanders thrown on a potter’s wheel, homemade soy candles, plants and kitchen towels, along with canned and baked goods.
“One artisan makes custom birdhouses; you can bring in a picture and he’ll make it,” Willis said. “He can make a birdhouse out of anything.”
The farmers market is in its seventh season and keeps growing every year.
“I hardly shop for produce in the stores anymore,” Willis said. “I buy in the summer and I freeze for the winter. I’m not much of a canner, but I have fresh vegetables all year round.”
Nonprofits, such as the Baddour Center in Senatobia, sometimes bring their wares or information about their groups. The center is an assisted living home for mentally and physically challenged adults, who work in its greenhouse. They sell their plants to help support the nonprofit center.
Local animal shelters also bring dogs and cats to adopt, occasionally.
New this year, the farmers market is starting early for a special celebration. DeSoto County has a huge Earth Day get-together each year, so the market will open earlier than most years, on April 26. The county will have festivities for both children and adults.
And in the middle of the season, the market will host Santa in July. Tentative plans for the day include a children’s choir to sing Christmas carols and decorations in vendors’ booths.
“I’ve already talked to Santa, and he said he does have red shorts and a Santa Hawaiian shirt he can wear,” Willis said. “It will be a great day on the Square.”
Gretchen Mae Stone is HottyToddy.com associate editor. You can contact Gretchen about this story at Gretchen.Stone@HottyToddy.com.
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