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Despite Tough Farming Season, Bad Weekend Weather, Customers Still Pack Watauga County Farmers’ Market

That's a big pile of carrots at the Watauga County Farmers' Market last Saturday. Photo by Ken Ketchie
That’s a big pile of carrots at the Watauga County Farmers’ Market last Saturday. Photo by Ken Ketchie

By Jesse Wood

July 22, 2013. The Watauga County Farmers’ Market was packed last weekend despite the overcast weather and threat of rain.

This has been the norm for the 2013 season at Horn in the West.

Photo by Ken Ketchie
Photos by Ken Ketchie

Lee Carlton, vice president of the market and owner of Goldenrod Gardens, estimated that an attendance of 2,500 has been the top count this year.

“The season has been wonderful despite the rain,” Carlton said. “We normally haven’t had so much rain on Saturdays in the past, but it hasn’t seemed to affect our customers. They still come out to support the local farming community.”

Carlton sells cut flowers and organic veggies at the market.

“There is more produce now and it will continue to roll through August with things like tomatoes, peppers and squash. As we go further into September and later in the season, we’ll get more leafy greens again,” Carlton said. “But this coming month is probably the month we have the most produce by weight.”

While the flowers “seem to love” the rain, Carlton said the record precipitation so far has been challenging for Carlton to control different diseases that are proliferating from the heavy rainfall.

Matt Cooper, president of the Watauga County Farmers’ Market, echoed Carlton’s remarks about the enthusiasm of the customers and the hardships caused by the weather.

“It’s been tough as far as the farming side. As far as the market side goes, the customers have been terrific,” Cooper said. “I can’t speak enough high regards for the local, seasonal folks and tourists that decide to come on out on crummy weather days.”

The farming has been so tough that Cooper is already contemplating how he will pay the bills come the end of the season.

He said his crops of lettuce, bok choy and Swiss chard have been devastated and that he’ll soon find out if his tomatoes and potatoes have rotted out from catching the early blight. He also added that he is concerned with powdery mildew attacking his squash and effectively wiping out that crop as well.

“There is no saving grace for farmers. We will have to dip into savings and pick up another job basically if the money doesn’t show up, and for a lot of us, the money isn’t showing up because of the ways the rains came,” Cooper said. “For me, I’ll just push on through the season, get into the fall and figure out what we’ll have to do next for an income.” 

The Watauga County Farmers’ Market is open 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays from May to November at Horn in the West. For more information, click here

See photos of the market last weekend below.

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