Garden Sass Market is booming

Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Locally grown Democrat Photo/Lindsay Reed Yer Vang, pictured above, and her mother, Chao Lee, of Fairview, offer an assortment of fruits and vegetables at the Garden Sass Farmers' Market in Cassville each week. This year, the women are selling bitter melon, a vegetable similar to squash that offers added health benefits.

An abundance of produce is beginning to show up at the Garden Sass Farmers' Market in Cassville, and vendors are ready to provide more area families with fresh fruits and vegetables for the dinner table.

"We are doing really good now," said John Potter, Garden Sass president. "This is a trying year as far as water goes, but we are still able to water our gardens and keep our prices down."

Tomatoes, green beans, beets, cucumbers, peaches, squash, peppers and a variety of other produce is sold at the market pavilion on Mineral Springs Road in the Cassville City Park from 7 a.m. to noon each Tuesday and Friday.

"We are still setting up at Tractor Supply Company on Saturday too," said Potter. "I think that location is going to work out well once everyone knows we are there. It's just about getting the word out."

Yer Vang and Chao Lee, of Fairview, offer an assortment of onions, lettuce, cabbage, potatoes and other vegetables at the market each week. This year, the mother-daughter team is offering a new item, bitter melon.

"You cook it like squash, and it has a bitter taste," said Vang. "It offers good health benefits for those with things like high blood pressure. If you prefer it less bitter, you can soak it in a little salt water before cooking it."

Vang and Lee are also being challenged by this year's weather.

"Every night we are going out to water," said Vang. "We turn the water on for a few hours in the afternoon and then go out right before dark to shut it off. Are garden is doing okay right now."

Even though the hot, dry conditions are challenging, plants are still producing. Many of the vendors are harvesting items, like tomatoes, from the garden much earlier this year.

"People usually want to see the first tomato by the Fourth of July," said Alice Leverich. "I have been getting tomatoes out of the garden for two weeks."

Leverich said that the corn she planted in her garden is almost ready to be harvested also.

"We are going home to gather green beans to cook today," said Leverich. "So, I'll be bringing in green beans next week."

In addition to beets, onions and potatoes, Leverich is growing sweet potatoes, purple hull peas and an assortment of peppers that will appear at the market this summer.

Pat and Clint Blankenship have been selling Ambrosia corn at Garden Sass for several weeks. Clint grew about an acre of the sweet corn on his father Pat's farm at Jenkins.

"The hot, dry weather makes the corn make faster," said Clint. "Our corn was about a week ahead. We had planned to sell corn during the two weeks around Fourth of July."

The Blankenships, who raise beef cattle and produce field corn and fescue seed, sold their last load of corn at the farmers' market on June 29.

"I think we have an advantage over some of the other vendors because we are use to gardening in central Arkansas were it is much hotter," said James Reed, who recently moved to Exeter from Arkansas. "The secret is keeping the ground shaded from the sun."

Reed and Steve Burcham work together to grow produce in a one-quarter acre garden. Most of their garden produces heirloom vegetables.

"We should have tomatoes in August," said Reed. "We will have 32 varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

"This is a nice little market," said Reed, who is originally from Barry County. He recently returned to help his parents.

"Everything we offer here is locally grown," said Potter. "The prices this year are no higher and usually cheaper than in the store. As long as the heat doesn't stop us, we will have produce here all summer long."

Potter encourages area community members to visit the market early. Several vendors, including those offering tomatoes, are selling out within the first hour or two after the market opens.

Area residents interested in learning more about what will be offered at the market each week can join the Garden Sass Farmers Market group on Facebook, visit or email Potter at

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