South Mississippi Strong: Retired chef brings fresh food, community to Coast with multiple farmer’s markets

South Mississippi Strong: Retired chef brings fresh food, community to Coast with multiple farmer’s markets

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - One woman’s vision to bring fresh food to South Mississippi residents has blossomed into multiple farmers markets along the Coast.

Diane Claughton is a retired chef who has brought fresh produce, homemade goods, livestock and more to communities throughout South Mississippi.

Former chef Diane Claughton began the first certified farmers market on the Coast in Ocean Springs. She now runs seven markets across South Mississippi. (Photo source: WLOX)
Former chef Diane Claughton began the first certified farmers market on the Coast in Ocean Springs. She now runs seven markets across South Mississippi. (Photo source: WLOX)

Claughton runs at least seven of the farmers markets found on the Coast. She said it all started with a light bulb moment that resulted in the Coast’s first certified farmers market, which opened in 2004 in Ocean Springs.

“I found a friend who had lived in France and understood about markets. It took us a year to get it going. We did it for a year and Katrina hit,” she explained.

Claughton brought the market back, though, and since then, has opened many more, including the one at Jones Park in Gulfport.

“It’s a quirky little place. You got all kind of things going on here," said Lamont Bowman, owner of Biloxi Street Food.

Freshly squeezed lemonade, jars of locally sourced honey and people walking around, sampling hot and ready treats are normal sights at one of these farmers markets.

“Southern specialties of snacks, as you would say roasted corn and boiled peanuts," said Bubba of Bubba’s Boiled Peanuts.

Claughton’s dream has grown and is now drawing residents and visitors from across the Coast and the country.

“I bought a couple soaps, some exfoliating soaps and invested in some of the natural herbs, as far as the turmeric and the lettuce extracts,” said shopper Quentin Byrd from Atlanta.

“The children are on spring break, and we kind of did a spur of the moment trip," said Natalie Boynton, who was visiting from Minnesota.

The Boynton family stumbled across the market while on the way to the beach. She said she loves how farmers markets make it easy to support local vendors.

“I think a lot of fear is that things are going to be more expensive if you buy local, but a lot of times, you don’t find that to be the truth at all,” Boynton explained.

Claughton said the markets help small farmers run their businesses at an affordable rate.

Joseph Phillip and his wife harvest fresh produce from their farm every week. “It’s extra money... hard work, but honest,” he said.

Vendors say the farmers markets also make organic products more accessible to the public.

Paul Brown owns Roots to Home and makes medicines from his crops.

“We have the same idea about keeping the body healthy in some really good, traditional ways," Brown stated.

Lamont Bowman loves having the free range to be creative and test new flavors of his lemonade.

“You get to do your own thing. This is your little booth, your little world, your little business,” he said.

While people flow in and out of the market, interacting with vendors and their products, Claughton is able to smile watching her vision of bringing the farm-to-table experience unfold in front of her.

“It gives you a connection to the people who are making your food and growing your food," she said. “Everybody needs a market.”

Read below for a list of Diane Claughton’s farmers markets along the Coast:

  • Lyman Community Farmers Market: Every Third Sunday 1pm-4pm. Lyman Community Center
  • Beach Blvd. Market, Gulfport: Saturdays 10am-3pm
  • Florence Gardens Farmers Market, Gulfport: First Sundays 1pm-4pm
  • Gulfport Harbor Market: Wednesdays 9am-1pm
  • Long Beach Farmers Market: Saturdays 9am-12pm
  • Ocean Springs Fresh Market: Saturdays 9am-1pm

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