GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Just like last year, the Gulfport Farmers Market has just one vendor right now. But unlike a year ago, customers can actually see where that vendor is selling fresh produce, because her tables are next to Highway 90.
"We've got green tomatoes and red tomatoes," Cuppie Smith told the customer on the other side of her table. That customer looked at the tomatoes, and said with surprise in her voice, "Oh my Lord, look at the size of that booger."
The tomatoes were bright red. The squash was a brilliant yellow. "And we've got English peas, bell peppers," the saleswoman exclaimed.
After describing everything on the table, the vendor was told she also had customers. "I see that. We've got good customers coming back every Tuesday and Friday," Smith said.
And this year, those customers can actually see the one vendor at the Gulfport Farmers Market, because the produce tables are no longer set up near the Coast Guard building.
Mary Smith remembers what it was like last year. "They didn't know where the market was at," she said, referring to her customers. "But thank God the mayor put us back out here, because they are coming back."
That better visibility next to Highway 90 has created quite a buzz under the Smith family tent. For about an hour late Tuesday morning, the Smith women never got a break. People kept bagging up their English peas, smelling their cantaloupes, and squeezing their tomatoes. "And the green beans are fabulous," a customer said.
Mary Smith was thrilled to be so busy. "I was depressed early in the winter time. But I got back down here and I got my customers back. And I'm smiling and I'm happy," she said.
Smith has been selling fresh vegetables in Gulfport for almost three decades.
"What a bargain," shouted one customer as he walked away with a bag of fresh vegetables.
"Thank you baby," the vendor replied.
She remains the only vendor who's currently using her permit to weigh and sell produce in Jones Park on Tuesdays and Fridays.
"We need to get a pavilion. If we could get a pavilion back, then you would get more farmers down here," she said.
Until that happens, the Smiths and their squash will be as close to Highway 90 as the city allows.
Gulfport's Leisure Services Department has no plans for a permanent farmers market village. There is discussion taking place right now about moving the farmers market to a covered area underneath new small craft harbor buildings. A spokesperson for the department says where to put the vendors will be addressed once those improvements are completed.