Fresh fruit, vegetables available on Saturdays

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- Even with a draught keeping produce production down, local farmers have plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit to sell on Saturdays.

The Downtown Albany Market features locally grown produce from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the first floor of the parking deck until Oct. 8.

With his vendor table and baskets full of corn, peas, eggplants, watermelons and other produce ready for sale, farmer Willie Cooper of Elnora Farms said the drought is just another part of the business.

"I still plant and grow in the draught," Cooper said. "It is just something we have to put up with."

Cooper said that because the market is in its first year it is just beginning to develop its own flavor, its own community.

"Ninety percent of our customers are the same people," Cooper said. "They come back and look for their farmer."

Customer Larry Davis agreed. He said he would rather buy locally grown than go to a supermarket. Whether at home, or in his business travels, he prefers to patronize the independent restaurant and store over the chain businesses.

"I live this market. I come here every other week," Davis said. "There is nothing better than locally grown, fresh produce from Georgia."

The market also offers fresh roast coffee from the Handsome Coffee Co. The company's owner/roaster Stephen Hand, said he was inspired to turn his coffee roasting hobby into a business by the opening of the Downtown Albany Market.

"I have my own special Market Blend along with coffee from Peru and other countries," Hand said. "A couple stores downtown have agreed to start selling my coffee too."

Plans are under way to add more attractions to the market to pick up the flavor, said Beverly Jenkins, a member of the market board.

"We're planning on adding music and entertainment," Jenkins said. "Later in the summer we'll have senior day, family day and some other special days."

There was a consensus with vendors that most of the traffic at the market came through between 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

Some people return after buying their produce. Take Melinda Greenfield, her husband Carl Sagasser and their son Nathan.

Greenfield said. "I'm a vegetarian and we came here this morning for vegetables and sunflowers," Greenfield said. "My meat-eater husband saw the grill and said 'Oh gosh we're coming back for lunch.'"

The grill that was spotted belonged to Virginia Malone owner of Lady V's Catering. She sets her tent and equipment up on the corner of Broad Avenue and Jackson Street every Saturday as part of the market to feature turkey legs, burgers and hot dogs.

Malone's corner catches the eye of anyone driving by that might miss the market in the parking deck. She often waves at drivers and passengers to welcome them to the market.

"There are also the chocolate-pecan turtles I make by hand and pound cake," Malone, or Lady V, said. "I'm out here but I'm part of the market. I let people know we are here."