One sure sign of spring is the availability of fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables in downtown Hinesville.
According to Vicki Davis, executive director of the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority, locally grown produce will be available starting March 7 at the spring market in Bradwell Park. The market will run 4-7 p.m. each Thursday in March and April.
Davis said the spring market is distinctive from the farmers market, which begins in May.
“For one thing, we don’t close all of Commerce Street. It’s really a bonus market for our growers who are already registered. If they don’t have any produce, they’re not expected to be there each week,” she said.
Davis said the growing season for some fruits and vegetables is extremely short. She said having a fresh produce market right here in downtown Hinesville makes fresh fruit and vegetables more accessible to the public, she said.
Davis said she’d like to see participation by organic farmers.
“I’d like to get somebody who’s a certified organic vendor (to register to sell produce at the spring market),” she said. “We encourage people to talk to our growers though because many of them grow their vegetables without using chemical fertilizers or pesticides. They’re not certified organic growers, but they’re producing safer vegetables.”
According to thedailygreen.com, even those who strongly advocate for organic fruits and vegetables admit the benefits of eating non-organic fresh fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of possible pesticide residue. Consumers are encouraged to thoroughly wash all fruit and vegetables before cooking or consuming them raw. Noting that organic fruit and vegetables are more expensive, the website also advises consumers to be selective about buying organic.
The website recommends 14 fruits and vegetables that should be organic, including apples, peaches, grapes, celery, sweet bell peppers, green beans and spinach. Fruit and vegetables with thick outer skin like watermelon, cantaloupe (domestic), grapefruit, pineapples, sweet corn, cabbage and onions don’t have to be organic. Careful cleaning before cooking or eating usually is enough.
Davis said there is an added benefit to getting locally grown, fresh vegetables.
“If I pick a ripe tomato from my garden, I know I have just a few days to eat it before it’s too ripe to eat,” she said. “If I see what looks like a ripe tomato in a grocery store then see it’s from California, I have to wonder what they did to keep it fresh to ship it here.”
She said most of the growers who are registered vendors for the spring and farmers markets have farms in Liberty County or in bordering counties. Some of these farms are part of growers’ cooperatives that include farms in Florida. She said some of these growers are allowed to bring their brokered items to the spring market. Sweet corn, for example, is ready in Florida several weeks before it’s ready here in South Georgia. She said when sweet corn is ready, these farmers begin selling their produce in Florida.
“We have some local farms that are selling to a wholesale market, and some of them are very successful,” Davis said, noting the sweet onions grown in Tattnall County are sold around the country. “We have to consider the dynamics of our community, so we accept produce from growers in those counties connected to Liberty County.”