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Farmers market thriving

In a year when many businesses have faced setbacks, the Picayune Farmers Market is thriving.

At the final market of 2020 customers checked out pickled quail eggs and collared greens.

December was a slower month for the market, but vendors still did good business, said market organizer and Black Creek Farms owner Christina Juneau.

The market was busiest shortly after the pandemic began to impact Mississippi, when customers were nervous to visit grocery stores.

“The first couple of weeks of the pandemic, when we started the drive thru, that was insane,” said Mike Juneau, Black Creek Farms owner.

“I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life,” said Christina Juneau.
Vendors at the market accept EBT, which helped drive business.

“That helped a lot when everybody got their pandemic EBT from the schools,” Juneau said.

Aulton Cryer with Cryer’s Family Produce manned a table filled with collared greens, mustard greens, giant cabbages and romanesco. With the pandemic ongoing, Cryer has had many new farmers market venues.

“A lot of people, they like the farmers market atmosphere because you’re less likely to be indoors,” he said.

The pandemic has also changed customer attitudes.

“People are a little more patient and a little more giving,” Cryer said.

A few tables down, Ashley Scott sells jams, jellies, pickled eggs, salsa and caramel sauce. Her farmers market sales supplement her dairy farm income. She joined the market when other vendors stopped coming out because they were worried about COVID.

Demand for her jellies and jams is high.

“Pickled quail eggs go the quickest and then salsa, everybody loves salsa.”

Along with strong farmers market sales, Scott has seen an improvement in her primary business, selling baby dairy goats.

“Everything has went up in demand with people trying to be a little more self sustaining,” said Scott.

For Canna Luxe owner Erica Rickman, the cancellation of so many large spring festivals prevented the business growth she’d seen the previous year. Small farmers markets helped her stabilize her business.

“March, April, May are perfect months and that’s when COVID hit us. I had everything lined up for us having a big spring, so I had lots of inventory and everything, and it didn’t happen. I had a lot of my finances in inventory expecting to go to festivals,” said Rickman.

Many vendors are nervous to book large festivals or events in the spring after so many were cancelled in 2020, making smaller markets even more important.

“I think a lot of people are afraid to book things, because a lot of these festivals, the big events, it might cost you four or five hundred dollars to book a spot and a lot of them won’t let you get refunds,” said Rickman.

The Picayune farmers market is always accepting new vendors and with the start of 2021, customers can expect new vendors to join the market regularly, said Juneau.