The thought of buying fresh farm produce sent residents flocking to Texarkana, Ark.'s Gateway Farmers Market even before the market undertook its seasonal Grand Opening at 7 a.m. Saturday.
But once it was open, fans of farm-fresh produce overtook about 20 of the vendors' stands to buy both red and green tomatoes as well as peaches, green beans, squash, peppers, carrots, honey and green onions, along with fresh beef and pork.
Jerry Peavy, who serves on the Gateway Farmers Market Committee, said the market continues to thrive every bit as well as it ever has since the city allowed them to construct a weatherproof roof under which fresh farm produce vendors have been able to gather near the intersection of East Ninth Street and East Broad Street, starting in 1997.
"Besides getting a grant, we also received some Advertising and Promotions funds for the market's location," Peavy said. "This has been a big draw for Texarkana during the last 22 years. We have people from as far away as Hope and Magnolia."
Peavy added that the market draws at least 500 to 700 customers the days it's open from now to October.
"We usually have about 20 produce and craft vendors here on Saturdays," he said. "The craft vendors usually sell items like hot pads, baked goods, cottage foods, breads and jellies."
Tommie Ayers, who chairs the market's oversight committee, said he is hoping to get new and younger vendors out to the market.
Peavy said the committee stipulates that fresh farm produce has to originate with the vendors—not prepurchased and resold.
"The vendors have to be the ones who grow the produce, pick the produce and bring their produce here—none of it can be prepurchased and resold—and this is strictly enforced," he said.
To keep the market local, producers can only come from within a 75-mile radius of Texarkana, said Suzanne Howell, a market volunteer.
Betty Ann Davis of Fouke, Ark., who has participated in the market for at least the last 15 to 20 years, brings her homegrown okra, squash, potatoes, onions, pinto beans and blackberries to the market each year.
"I love to come out here and just visit with the customers and I always will," she said.