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Area produces bounty of fresh fruit, vegetables Longtime Longview Farmer's Market to open in early June

By Glenn Evans
May 21, 2010 at 7:15 p.m.

Northeast Texas has more outlets for fresh fruits and vegetables than you can shake a carrot stick at.

The recent opening of the Historic Longview Farmer's Market was just a harbinger of good things to come as produce stands begin to sprout on roadsides, pick-your-own farms blossom and the traditional Longview Farmer's Market makes ready for summer 2010.

As of Thursday, six farmers and some dealers, who buy from farmers to sell in a separate area beneath the pavilion at the Longview Fairgounds, had joined the Longview Farmer's Market.

"We hope to have more farmers, because a lot of them have called," said Daphine Claiborne, secretary/treasurer of the Longview Farmer's Market. "We told them to come on opening day. ... We are opening the second of June."

The Longview Farmer's Market will operate 7 a.m. till the tables empty on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. The operation also is adding Saturday hours this year, beginning at 8 a.m., to accommodate shoppers.

"We had so many customers that couldn't come during the week," Claiborne said. "That Saturday morning is because that's when people can come."

The Historic Longview Farmer's Market, so-named to reflect its downtown location and the farm-to-market model it follows, was a blooming success at its opening on May 15, organizers said. The market is open Saturdays through the growing season, with plans to expand to weekdays.

"Fred Boger, who had brought a large truck full of tomatoes, sold out and then went back to his farm in Diana for another truck load. And he was sold out again before noon," said Danielle Heard, a member of the committee organizing the downtown outlet. "Even Fair Meadow Goat Dairy - Carol Pinckard who sells goat milk soap and lotion - was almost completely sold out by noon. It was a very successful opening."

Heard is a certified holistic health counselor and certified natural whole food chef.

"Quality whole food is critical for people to have good health and live a long life," she said. "It is key to helping people address health issues and heal."

Less urban outlets for foods right out of the friendly East Texas clay can be found along highways linking its hamlets.

■ Those include one where U.S. 80 crosses Lake Devernia near Clarksville City, which adds produce to its plant sales floor.

■ The John H. Efurd Peach Orchard, along U.S. 271 north of Gilmer, lets lovers of the peach and a variety of berries pick their own. Full produce outlets hold forth beneath shady, wooden structures on both sides of that same stretch of U.S. 271.

■ The Kilgore Farmer's Market soon enters its sophomore year beneath the derricks in the World's Richest Acre, downtown Kilgore. The market operates 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays from June through October.

■ The Greer Farm, west of Daingerfield on Morris County Road 1125, near Texas 11, offers blackberries, blueberries, figs, peas and plums.

At least one stand historically has popped up along U.S. 80 between Longview and Hallsville.

East of Hallsville, signs along U.S. 80 east direct fruit nuts to Martin's Berry Patch.

"When the blackberry season is on, we're going to be like ants on an apple core," co-owner Mary Martin said, noting the blueberries should be good for armies of berry pickers to swarm by the official opening on May 28. Blackberries on the pick-you-own farm should be ripe by the second week of June, she said.

Martin said a late freeze a year ago left vines wanting for fruit. That's not the case this year, she said.

"The blueberries and blackberries are back," Martin said. "We're going to have a good year."

Northeast of Gladewater, Arlene Parker is welcoming shoppers to her unnamed produce house, which really is a house filled with enough salad components to make a health nut cry for joy.

"It's better this year than ever," Parker said of fresh inventory at the shop on U.S. 271 north of Gladewater's Loop 485. "The locavores are going nuts."

Locavores, people who make an effort to eat food produced locally, will find a dozen varieties of heirloom tomatoes, so-named because they come from seeds that have not been genetically altered. She sells seeds, too.

She has seven types of peppers, Amish pie pumpkins, squash of every hue, pinto beans, crowder peas and watermelons from seven Northeast Texas growers, including Pennington Watermelon Farms of Grapeland.

"I buy it, and that's the day they picked it," Parker said. "You come and buy it that afternoon or that evening. (Shoppers) know it's not been shipped, it's not been in cold storage and it's going to be good, fresh quality."



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