Farmer’s market opens in Read Park

Published 4:38 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The first farmer’s market held at Jack Reed Park met with success and is expected to grow in the coming weeks.

Four different vendor tables were set up with varying products for sale, from fresh vegetables to live plants and even hand made soap and other bath products.

Locally grown plants and fruit trees were on sale at the market and about 80 percent of the plants brought to the market were sold, said Kathy Poche. Poche and her husband Sonny grow the plants at their home utilizing a small “hot house”, she said.

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“We thought it was a pretty good day for us,” Kathy Poche said. “It was encouraging.”

They had various kinds of grass, fruit trees, and even bamboo for sale. Poche estimates they sold about 150 to 200 plants Tuesday.

For the next two weeks the Poches will not be at the market because they will be on vacation but do expect to return to the market when they return from their time off.

Sonny Poche swore to himself that he should not be like his father and get involved with growing plants, but something happened to change his mind.

“When you put your hand in the dirt, that’s it,” Sonny Poche said.

Jane Flair with PJ’s Produce was at the market selling Creole tomatoes, squash and pickled quail eggs, beans and okra. Also on sale were products such as local honey, zucchini, bell peppers and sting beans. Flair said in her short time at the market — she got there three hours late — she sold about four cases of tomatoes, a case of eggplant and a case of squash.

There was the opportunity for shoppers to create their own bouquet at one vendor’s table. All they had to do was pick out the flowers they wanted and Amy Phelps would create the bouquet for them right before their eyes. She is part of the Pearl River Blues, a farm that grows blueberries. During Hurricane Katrina they lost about 60 percent of the blue berry bushes. To put the unused space into production, they decided to start growing flowers.

Also grown on the farm are chickens, which they move from place to place the land, producing healthier chickens and eggs with more omega 3 vitamins in them. This is achieved by giving the chickens fresh dirt to clean themselves and a continuous supply of fresh bugs and grass, Phelps said.

Homemade soaps lotions and other toiletries also were on sale. Richard and Melinda Burks make all their products at their home.

“I used to have a two-car garage,” Richard Burks said.

Melinda said the soap takes about two hours to make and then many hours to cure, usually four to six. They plan to be on hand with their products for the next month.

Richard Burks said they have done about the same amount of business they usually do during the Picayune Street Fair. Even though more people show up for the street fair, he suspects the reason they did just as well in sales is because people who come to farmer’s markets come to spend money, while those who come to the street fair only show up for food and to peruse the products.

Melinda said all of their products are made with goat’s milk and other ingredients in the old way.

“It’s all lye soap like grandma used to make, but with a twist,” Melinda Burks said.

The next time they come to the market they plan to bring more products. Tuesday was a test run. Melinda said she has several types of face scrubs and creams that will be available the next time they come.

Richard Burks said he makes bird and bat houses, butterfly boxes and lady bug houses. Those should also be on sale when they come again.

While only four venders showed up for the first day, there are about 11 signed up for Thursday, Picayune Main Street Manager Reba Beebe said. She said Phelps should be a regular on Tuesdays only, but she plans to bring the eggs from those healthy chickens.

Additions to the selection should include, fudge, watermelons, boiled peanuts in a bag, corn, peas, tomatoes, preserves and bell peppers, Beebe said.