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Pa. Farmers' Market has growth spurt

May 23, 2004|By BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

The fifth season of the Southgate Farmers' Market opened Saturday with clear, dry weather, lots of colorful local produce and many loyal customers.

Spinach, lettuce, kale, strawberries, radishes, green onions, asparagus, baked goods and other items went into the shopping bags of customers seeking reasonably priced fresh, quality produce.

Stacey Schmader, president of the south-central Farmers Market Association, said that everything was "going great" on opening morning.

"We're starting out with five vendors this year; others are in and out throughout the season," Schmader said. "We start the second-to-last weekend in May every year, so people know we're going to be here. A Big Lots store recently came into the center, and we will help each other's businesses."

The U.S. Factory Outlets, which soon will be coming to the Southgate Shopping Center, also will help draw customers, she said.

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Matt Steiman, manager of the all-organic Fulton Farm at Wilson College in Chambersburg, said the farm "hasn't missed a market" since Southgate Farmers' Market began. He was selling herb plants, tomato plants, fresh lettuce, spinach, kale, red Russian kale, chamomile, goat cheese and grass-fed beef Saturday morning.

"We have a loyal customer base," he said.

Assisting him was Stacey Pernell, who is doing an educational agricultural internship at the farm. Pernell, a chef who graduated from Emory University in Atlanta, said she would like to incorporate agriculture into the culinary arts by opening a restaurant that serves the produce she grows.

Bennie Oliver of Chambersburg lives within walking distance of the market, and stopped at Steiman's stand for some lettuce. He said he was headed to Food Lion when he saw the farmers' stands and decided to stop.

"I thought, 'Why get it there with chemicals on it. I'll get it here and help the local farmers,'" Oliver said.

Leroy Brown of Chambersburg watched over a large cooker at his Leroy's Original Jamaican Jerk Chicken stand. The half- and quarter-chickens are seasoned with ginger, garlic and other spices, he said.

Brown also prepares rice and beans, and has been with the market since its inception.

Southgate is a producer-only market, with everything grown or made in Franklin County, Steiman said.

The open-air market is in the parking lot of Southgate Shopping Center on Washington Street, and is open every Saturday through Oct. 16 from 8 a.m. to noon.

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