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A Fresh Start: Selmer Farmers’ Market offers fresh, locally grown produce

Staff Photo by Emily Pitts Dena McDonald by her fresh, locally-grown produce at the Selmer Farmers’ Market on a Saturday morning.

Last Saturday was Dena McDonald’s second time to sell her vegetables at the Selmer Farmers’ Market. She and her parents set up early Saturday morning with vegetables they had grown in their garden, selling them for only $1 per bag.

McDonald is a fourth generation farmer. “I guess she gets a green thumb from generations of her family,” said Donna Forsythe, Dena’s mother.  

McDonald’s 89-year-old grandmother, Verble Nixon, who accompanied her family to the farmers’ market the week before, still keeps a garden as well.

“I guess it comes natural,” said McDonald. “I love it.”

They were selling a variety of produce, including tomatoes, squash, and more.

 “We pretty much eat out of our garden,” said Forsythe. 

And now, the people of Selmer have the opportunity to eat out of their garden as well, for prices which are among the lowest in the county.

The Selmer Farmers’ Market was a project taken on by McNairy Regional Alliance’s annual adult leadership class. 

“We decided we wanted to do a big project for the community,” said class member Luke DeLavergne. “McNairy County has a huge agricultural background; it’s the heart and soul of the community.”

DeLavergne said that the class noticed people randomly selling locally grown produce at different places throughout town and were inspired to coordinate the Selmer Farmers’ Market for both economic and nutritional reasons.

“We also noticed that some farmers’ markets which were funded by grants had all kinds of restrictions, so we really wanted to make this a local project,” said DeLavergne.

The City of Selmer and the Parks and Recreation Department agreed to fund the building of a pavilion for the market if the class could come up with $4,000. With local sponsors, the class soon reached this goal.

The famers’ market is thriving today, with only one restriction: all the produce sold there must be locally grown. 

According to Ricky Mathenia, UT Agriculture Extension Agent, obtaining a permit to sell is easy.  All that a farmer has to do is come by the UT Ag Extension Office to fill out a form, with name and address, stating that they are only going to sell what they grow themselves. The permit is free of charge, and only one is required for the whole season.

“It’s meant to not allow people to buy and resell. Just homegrown produce,” said Mathenia, “so you buy it straight from the person who grew it.”

McDonald and her family said that they liked coming to the farmers’ market, and they are not the only ones; they arrived early on Saturday morning and had only a few bags left by early afternoon.

And this reporter can tell you firsthand that their green tomatoes are worth the trip.

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