PERRY -- While most of Americas food supply comes from large farming operations these days, a resilient contingent of small-scale growers still contribute to the dinner table.
Each Saturday at the Perry Farmers Market, about a dozen or so vendors sell produce they grow themselves. Buyers say they like it in part because they can talk to the people who grow the food.
The same people are here every weekend so you get to where you trust them, said Candace Clester, of Perry, who comes to the market just about every Saturday with her neighbor, Marilyn Bauer.
I love it because I get the best prices on fruits and vegetables, Bauer said, and the quality is great.
Lavern Pate is both manager of the market and a seller. She and her husband sell a wide variety of produce. She said they grow about 85 percent of it themselves, including corn, tomatoes, squash, peppers and zucchini.
Even though she had several helpers, her booth was so busy Saturday it took a while before she had time to stop and talk. She said the market has grown significantly since it was established 15 years ago.
I think more and more people are thinking about their health and are coming to places like this where small farmers grow the crops, she said. We dont have any large farmers because we want it to be as natural as it can be.
The Pates stagger their planting, including planting two rows of corn every week, so they can have fresh produce every weekend throughout the season. Heirloom tomatoes are one of her biggest selling items.
Perry Mayor Jimmy Faircloth was at the market Saturday and said he comes regularly. He said it has become more than just a market, but a social event. The market usually has live music.
Its a destination now, he said.
The market is operated by the Downtown Development Authority. Pate estimated it brings 300 to 500 people downtown every Saturday.
There is more there than just produce.
Carla Green operates a booth with Sam Jones in which she sells a variety of free-range meats from animals she raises herself on 65 acres in Twiggs County. She sells pork, lamb and beef raised without use of hormones, antibiotics or steroids.
Thats what we are about is getting back to the roots of how animals were raised for many years, she said.
Jones sells raw milk, sold under state license as pet food because it isnt pasteurized, from Jersey cows he raises in Bleckley County.
Other vendors sell honey, canned goods and baked goods.
Tim and Susan Lewis, of Elko, have been vendors at the market for six years. Their primary business is a nursery, but they also grow and sell a variety of produce, including tomatoes, green peppers, eggplant and potatoes. This is only their second year growing produce.
Like most vendors, Tim Lewis wasnt claiming to be making money off of the produce.
Its a work in progress, he said.
The market is located at 1106 Meeting St. behind the Perry Arts Center in downtown Perry. It is open from 8 a.m. to noon each Saturday during the growing season.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.