Farmers markets offer fresh produce, conversation

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Lisa Dunagan of Clovis, right, pays Margie Plummer of Portales and owner of Veggie Shack for some fresh onions, peas, and squash Tuesday at the Clovis Farmers’ Market. Dunagan said she likes to buy her produce fresh.

By Eric Butler: Freedom New Mexico

Some come for the money, some come for the camaraderie.

Naturally, many vendors are actually drawn by both to farmers markets in Clovis and Portales, which are just now gaining momentum for the summer season.

The customers also are enticed by social aspects of the marketplace, but also by the produce.

“That’s what everyone wants: Fresh produce,” Portales Farmers Market manager Margie Plummer said. “They like the freshness and they like to come visit and socialize. They know this is a fun place to go see people they don’t see all the time. They like just walking around, looking at the produce and talking to their neighbors — and also to the people who grow it.”

Besides the Portales market, Plummer helps run the Melrose market and frequents the Clovis market as well. Floyd is currently using a long yellow trailer to hawk items such as onions, peas and a variety of small plants (tomato, herb, basil, chives, aloe vera).

The Clovis Farmers Market is located on Pile Street, just north of Grand, and is open at 8 a.m. Saturdays and 5 p.m. Tuesdays.

In Portales, the market is on 1st Street and South Ave. B and opens at 5 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays.

The official first day of the Clovis market was a week ago, with the Portales opening two days later. But there’s nothing really set in stone.

Dennis Shaw, a farmer near Ranchvale, started setting up shop in Clovis a couple of weeks before the usual days.

“He called me and asked me if he could come out. I said, ‘If you’ve got something to sell, go for it,’” said Denny Wymore, manager of the Clovis Farmers Market.

Tuesday, Shaw brought a passel of peas, green beans, radishes, beets and onions to the market as well as three kinds of squash (green, yellow and white).

“I’m not getting rich down here. I mostly do it just to talk to people — get off the farm and come to town,” Shaw said. “I do good, but it’s not crucial.”

Plummer, on the other hand, says the income generated through the markets is very important to her family.

“We have a huge garden, so this is really important. We don’t really farm anything other than the vegetables, so we depend on it to make good,” she said.

The lots are mostly empty at the markets when the season starts, but Plummer promises it will pick up as more products are brought on trailers and, typically, in the beds of pickup trucks.

The next wave of produce will include items such as watermelon, cantaloupes, tomatoes, sweet corn and okra from local farmers.

“When I turned in my averages last year, people had made up to eight thousand dollars a month. I even asked a couple of them, because I have to turn in the averages, and ($8,000) is pretty close,” Wymore said. “That’s in the big swing of things.”

The Clovis manager added the peak of the season is often in August when, to go along with all the other vegetables and fruit, locally-produced green chilis enter the fray.

“Usually the end of July going into August, because that’s when the green chilis start coming in and they roast it — with the smell…,” said Wymore, trailing off while thinking about it.

And you can almost hear her thinking, “Mmmmm.”