City farmers’ market to open this weekend

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Starting this Saturday, vegetable lovers won’t have to drive out of their way to get fresh produce; the farms are coming to Ironton.

Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Starting this Saturday, vegetable lovers won’t have to drive out of their way to get fresh produce; the farms are coming to Ironton.

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The annual Farmer’s Market begins 7 a.m. this Saturday, and luscious homegrown vegetables will be sold at the parking lot at the corner of Fifth Street and Park Avenue.

"I’d say the Farmers’ Market has been going on for five or six years in Ironton," farmer Judy Balmer said. "This is kind of early in the season."

This Saturday, Mrs. Balmer and her husband, Tomr, along with other local farmers, begin setting up their tables around 6:30 a.m., and although the season’s just beginning, this weekend’s selection should offer residents more than enough to entice their taste buds.

"We will have zucchini, yellow squash, green tomatoes, beets, onions, cabbage, honey and sorghum," she said. "And I also have my jams, jellies, relishes and pickles – things like that."

This annual market is exclusively for local farmers to sell fresh produce, rather than local dealers.

"We have customers that have been coming ever since it began, and this is the very best time to get fresh produce," Mrs. Balmer said. "I’ve probably had four or five calls reserving things for Saturday."

And these veggies will be fresh, because they will be hand-picked Friday, just for the customers.

"The vegetables in grocery stores are shipped in, and some have been sitting on the shelf," she said. "They haven’t been raised locally.

"We will be picking (produce) Friday to bring to Ironton Saturday, and it will be fresh and the very best that we’ve got."

Ironton’s market also has much less "hustle and bustle" compared with the market in Ashland, Ky., she said.

"(Ashland’s market) doesn’t open until 10 a.m. and it gets rough on customers because they aren’t allowed to buy anything until then," Mrs. Balmer said. "It even gets to the point where some customers hold on to the vegetables they want before the sale begins. As soon as we’re ready (in Ironton), customers can buy." Mrs. Balmer explained that she and other local farmers put much time and effort into growing their vegetables to ensure that produce is first-rate – all the more reason for residents to swing by the market.

"I’ve had the tomato plants in the greenhouse since early February and I’ve had to tend to them each day," she said. "I have 40 varieties of tomatoes, so it’s very easy for people to get what they want."

The Balmers, in particular, spend three to four hours a day in the garden, six days a week. Mrs. Balmer sets up her vegetable stand close to 6:30 a.m., and customers can buy at 7 a.m.

And it just gets better each week, as the peak vegetable season in July approaches.

"I think we’ll have ripe tomatoes and maybe some half runners for sale by the second Saturday," Mrs. Balmer said. "In the peak of the season (mid-July), we’ll have probably a dozen farmers. You never know for sure.

"When it gets to the point where everything’s ready; the tomatoes, beans, corn and the bit, we have several hundred customers. It’s nice to see (customers) that you don’t normally see throughout the year and you look forward to seeing them. In Ironton, it’s all folks, friends and neighbors, so it’s real laid back," she said.