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A Day at the Farmers’ Market

Story and photography by Cody Moore

Located on the eastern edge of the Arkansas State University campus lies the ASU Regional Farmers’ Market, an outdoor market that operates during certain months of the year and carries an array of locally-sourced produce, flowers, baked goods and more.

The ASU Regional Farmers’ Market, a nonprofit entity dedicated to supplying Jonesboro and surrounding communities with fresh products created and grown within a 100-mile radius of Jonesboro or within the state of Arkansas, held its first official market in the spring of 2008.

Market chairperson Dr. Kim Pittcock, who also works as the associate professor of horticulture at A-State and is the program manager for the East Arkansas Resource Conservation and Development Council, recalls discussing the idea for a Jonesboro market several years ago.

“Bob Young and I initially began the discussion of the creation of a farmers market in Jonesboro in the fall of 2007,” said Pittcock. “We immediately formed a committee consisting of Bill Shannon, Eric Grant, Pam Alexander and Thom Beasley as an additional board of directors to begin the development of the market.”

The ASU Regional Farmers’ Market board currently consists of four board members, including Pittcock, Grant, Shannon and Melinda Smith.

Since its inception, the ASU Regional Farmers’ Market has continued to grow in popularity each year. Hundreds of vendors have sold their products at the market each season, and several live music events and educational programs have taken place during the markets, as well. During a typical season, the market is open to the public each Tuesday in June, July and August, as well as each Saturday in May, June, July, August, September and October. The market usually averages between 32,000 and 33,000 customers per season and has an estimated economic impact of $500,000 annually.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions that have come with it, this year’s market opening was delayed, the number of vendors was limited and events that were slated to take place at the market have since been postponed. Despite those challenges, the ASU Regional Farmers’ Market board has taken many precautions in order to make sure both the guests and vendors have a safe, enjoyable market experience if they choose to visit during the pandemic.

“We had to delay the start of the market season by one month due to Arkansas Health Department restrictions,” said Pittcock. “Masks are required of all vendors, and customers and vendor booths are spaced further apart as we try our best to practice social distancing. We also provide hand sanitizers at the entrance and exit of the market, as well as at each vendor booth.”

The ASU Regional Famers’ Market plans to be open each Saturday throughout September and October with anywhere from 20 to 25 vendors in attendance. The number of guests is also counted at the entrance of the market to ensure that there are only 100 people inside, which is currently the maximum amount set for the market by the state.

A variety of products can still be found at the farmers’ market, including an array of garden-fresh vegetables, locally-grown flowers, breads, meats, cookies, cobblers, jams and jellies, fresh fruits, roasted coffee beans, handmade crafts, soaps and even local food trucks.

“Fresh flowers, sweet corn, tomatoes, baked items, local beef, peaches, watermelons, jelly and honey are some of the most popular items sold at the farmers’ market,” said Pittcock.

Whether someone is looking to stock up on in-season vegetables or fruits, looking for fresh flowers to liven up their living space or just wants to get out of the house for fresh air, the ASU Regional Farmers’ Market continues to provide a unique outdoor shopping experience.

“Lines to enter the market begin at least 30 minutes prior to start,” said Pittcock. “When the bell rings at the opening, people proceed to scatter throughout the market. There’s always a line at the fresh flowers and at the tomato vendors.

“We’re thankful that the community has continued to be very supportive of the market this season.”

The ASU Regional Farmers’ Market, located 3350 Aggie Road in Jonesboro, is currently open each Saturday in September from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. For all updates and announcements concerning the market or to see which vendors will be in attendance each week, find ASU Regional Farmers’ Market on Facebook or visit asuregionalfarmersmarket.org.