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Farmers' markets see slow start; past winter to blame

10:48 PM, May 2, 2013   |    comments
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Farmers markets are back in full swing for the season, but you may be surprised by what you find or don't find this week.

"We've been here for about 10-11 years," said Sue Meadows, an Anderson County farmer.

The hot item? "Strawberries, of course, are the best seller. They just didn't last long," she added.

This is the first week she has been able to bring the normally plentiful crops to the New Harvest Farmers' Market off Washington Pike.

However, she said the fruit were already gone almost as fast as they were put out on display.

"It's been very slow because of the cold weather and the rain. We have lots in the field, but it's kind of sitting there, not growing a lot," said Meadows.

Experts said a warmer than normal winter last year caused crops to grow earlier in years past. This past winter, it was back to more average conditions overall. That led to a stunt in some growth in crops like strawberries, cauliflower, broccoli, and lettuce.

"It'll be later than they have been. Although it's not really late, when you look at the law of averages," said David Vandergriff with the UT Extension.

While later harvests are expected, Vandergriff stressed this is not a bad thing for the average shopper.

"If it stays cooler like this, then that fruit will be a better quality. So that will be good for the consumer -- even though they'll have to wait a little bit longer than they had to wait," he added.

Fewer crops growing means fewer vendors in some cases. New Harvest saw about half their normal number of farming vendors in their first week. Market Square Farmers Market also saw a smaller turnout too in its opening day.

However, that is expected to be temporary as the season gets into full swing.

"It's just a matter of time," Sue Meadows said.

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