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Local growers don't count on profit from farmers markets

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Every Tuesday afternoon in Har­risburg you can expect to see Sam and Loretta Adderson at a stand, fielding questions from curious consumers about produce grown on their Keysville, Ga., farm.

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Loretta Adderson (from left), of Adderson's Fresh Produce in Keysville, Ga., talks with customers Myrel Seigler and Shirin Fennell, at the Veggie Truck Farmers Market in Harrisburg.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Loretta Adderson (from left), of Adderson's Fresh Produce in Keysville, Ga., talks with customers Myrel Seigler and Shirin Fennell, at the Veggie Truck Farmers Market in Harrisburg.

The Addersons, who participate weekly in the Veggie Truck Farmers Market, are not seeking a profit so much as to educate the public – specifically children – on the benefits of eating locally grown food.

The Addersons grow myriad green and root crops, such as kale, collard greens, carrots and spring onions, on their 56-acre certified-organic farm, named Adderson’s Fresh Produce. The couple, who also set up at Augusta Market at the River on weekends, say being part of local farmers markets is just profitable enough to pay for their expenses on the farm.

“You’ve got to love it to stay in,” Loretta Adderson said. “I think that’s what you would say about everybody that’s out here.”

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture research from 2011, the most current data, just 18 percent, or $877 million, of the nation’s local food sales in 2008 was generated by farmers who sold exclusively through direct-to-consumer methods, such as farmers markets or roadside stands.

“They’re not getting rich,” said Kim Hines, who coordinates both the Veggie Truck market and Evans Towne Farmers Market in Columbia County. “These small farmers that take the time to serve the community, they’re not making money off of that. They’re breaking even, but they’re living their lifestyle and the calling that feels right to them.”

Eight years ago, Hines tested the waters to see how viable farmers markets could be in the community by starting Augusta Locally Grown, a way to connect local growers and consumers in an online market.

What Hines and farmers have come to realize is that the demand exists on both a local and national scale. In 2013, the USDA found that the number of farmers markets registered in the country was 8,144. In 1994, the first year the USDA kept track of such markets, the number was 1,755.

For Jeanne Cleveland, who sets up a stand at the Veggie Truck market on the corner of Broad and Eve streets, the revenue earned each week at the market, averaging between $60 and $75, goes toward the cost of supplies for baking fresh apple pies and fruit muffins, canning homemade jam and jellies, and bottling dried herbs at The Backyard Garden in south Augusta.

Cleveland also sees the market as a way for her and husband Billy to network with other farmers and give back to the community.

At the Evans Towne Farmers Market, Gary Holland and Robert Veatch said they depend on markets to keep their farms afloat.

The friends run Country Sweets just outside Wrens, Ga., where they grow blueberries, raise chickens and cultivate honey from about two dozen beehives. The costs of running the farm, obtaining proper certification and licensing and paying taxes makes gleaning earnings from the market a necessity, they said.

COMMUNITY FARMERS MARKETS

AUGUSTA MARKET AT THE RIVER: From 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. every Saturday through December at 15 Eighth St. in downtown Augusta. Market includes live music and produce, and craft and food vendors.

EVANS TOWNE FARMERS MARKET: From 4:30-7 p.m. every Thursday through October at 7022 Evans Town Center Blvd., behind the Columbia County Library in Evans. More than 20 local farmers, artisans and food vendors participate.

VEGGIE TRUCK FARMERS MARKET: From 4:30-7 p.m. every Tuesday through October at 1833 Broad St. in Harrisburg. Doubles SNAP and EBT money.

AUGUSTA LOCALLY GROWN ONLINE FARMERS MARKET: www.augusta.locallygrown.net.


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