FARMERS' MARKETS are finding their niche in community economies across the state as producers and customers develop mutually beneficial relationships.

“Farmers' markets have a place in communities that have an appreciation for fresh produce,” said David Nagel, horticulture specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. “Prices are similar to grocery stores, but the produce is fresher. Most of the produce is grown within a 25-mile radius of the market. Grocery produce may be from as far as 2,000 miles away.”

Nagel said the appeal for Mississippi producers is the ability to supplement their income on a small area of land while making those close community ties that make Mississippi such a friendly state.

In the last couple of years, farmers' markets have developed in Lafayette, Warren, Adams and DeSoto counties in Mississippi.

Diane Hill, executive director of the Southaven Chamber of Commerce, said the 2001 growing season was a successful year for that city's new farmers' market. In 2000, the market was set up in a temporary location in a parking lot, but this year it benefited from a permanent, open-air building.

Joy Anderson, Extension horticulture agent in DeSoto County, said the Southaven Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in the success of the market. Booth rental, promotion and supervision were among the chamber's efforts.

“Extension can provide advice on crop and business issues; we can encourage people to grow produce for the farmers' market; but the community needed someone like the Chamber of Commerce to make it happen,” Anderson said.