Gulfport Farmers Market Attracts Just One Vendor - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport Farmers Market Attracts Just One Vendor

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- One of the responsibilities the new Gulfport Development Commission will take on is determining how Gulfport's Farmers Market should be incorporated into new harbor plans.

On Wednesday, the farmers market made its 2008 debut. And like one couple has done for almost three decades, the Smiths brought boxes of their favorite produce items to Jones Park. The Stone County family is single handedly keeping the Gulfport tradition alive.

As Mary and Jack Smith unloaded their truck, they looked around and saw nothing but open space.  They felt somewhat alone, being the only vendor at the Gulfport Farmers Market.  But they remained upbeat. 

"It's the way we make our living. We love it," Mrs. Smith explained.

She actually looks at her produce monopoly as a blessing.

"I love getting out and meeting the people," she said. "It puts a smile on your face."

The Smiths have the only $25 permit issued by Gulfport to sell any of their homegrown products. So on the opening day of the farmers market, there they were, filling one table with fresh vegetables.

"When you get phone calls out at your house from customers down here saying, 'Ms. Mary when are you coming back down here?' That makes you want to come back down here," she said.

The Smiths first met in Jones Park 28 years ago, when the farmers market was back by the Coast Guard building. And they've been selling fruits and vegetables near the small craft harbor ever since. For the Stone County couple, the market has become their home away from home -- though that Jones Park home has bounced around quite a bit in recent years.

"Oh they done tried to run us out. I'm not going to let them," Mrs. Smith said.

Councilwoman Libby Milner Roland admits Gulfport still has no concrete plans to build a permanent home for the farmers market. She said one possibility was to put the vendors under any buildings that eventually line the water.

"We've got to get some more vendors. We need some fresh vegetables," the councilwoman said.

Right now, the Smiths are the only farmers market vendors filling that need, next to a palm tree, in Gulfport's Jones Park.

"The people keeps us coming down here," Mrs. Smith said.

Because Jones Park will be getting a makeover, Councilwoman Roland mentioned the possibility of temporarily moving the farmers market to the city's West Side park. Mary Smith said she'd be okay with that, as long as the city returned her produce stand to a spot near the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor.

By Brad Kessie

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