Tomato time

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Garden Sass Farmers' Market vendor once told me that customers often don't recognize the start of the growing season until the first tomato arrives. I was also told that Barry Countians want to have their first garden ripened tomato in hand by July 4. This year, Independence Day came early at Garden Sass. Vendors have had tomatoes for several weeks, but bear in mind that each time vendors collect the juicy red produce from their gardens we get one step closer to the end of the tomato growing season. Get them while they are plentiful.

The early arrival of tomato time can be attributed to a couple of factors. First, the unseasonably warm winter allowed vendors to plant their gardens earlier. Second, the warm weather allowed plants to begin blooming and producing earlier. Third, one Barry County producer, Sherry Tucker, has successfully used her new hoop house to extend her garden's growing season earlier into the spring. Tucker will also likely offer produce later into the fall.

Most of us love tomatoes. I eat them on salads, sandwiches, hamburgers and as an ingredient in many of my recipes. My husband likes to eat them like apples. For those of you who don't like tomatoes, the local farmers' market offers a large variety of other produce, including green beans, potatoes, onions, peaches, beets, cucumbers and squash. Vendors also sell homemade breads, jams and jellies at the market. Some even sell craft items. There is something for everyone at Garden Sass.

In addition to enjoying the health benefits of purchasing and eating produce grown by local gardeners who use fewer chemicals during the growing process, community members who choose to shop at the farmers' market are putting dollars back into our local economy. John Potter, Garden Sass president, estimates that at least 75 percent of the money collected at the local market is spent right here in Barry County. That is a win for all of us.

If you have never visited the Garden Sass Farmers' Market make a point to stop by the pavilion on Mineral Springs Road in the Cassville City Park this Friday. The market opens at 7 a.m., and if you are looking for tomatoes you better get there early. Vendors also offer produce and other items at the pavilion beginning at 7 a.m. each Tuesday and at the Tractor Supply Company parking lot on Old Exeter Road beginning at 8 a.m. each Saturday. You can visit the Garden Sass Farmers' Market group on Facebook to get an update on what will be offered at the market each week.

Enjoy tomato time!

~ Lindsay Reed