Fresh, locally-grown fruit, vegetables and homemade foods are staples at the Downtown Tupelo Farmers’ Depot, but every time the market is open the goods being sold are as diverse as the people who come to shop.
“The farmers’ market is one of our most diverse events,” says Craig Helmuth, program associate with the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association. “It truly brings people of all ages and backgrounds together.”
The Farmers’ Depot, located at 415 S. Spring St., is open May through October:
- 3-6 p.m. Tuesday
- 6 a.m.-noon Thursday and Saturday
There are around 30 vendors that sell their goods at the market, and the produce varies each time.
“The fruits and vegetables will all depend on what is currently in season,” Helmuth says. “You’ll find everything from blueberries, peaches, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash zucchini and more. It truly is locally grown – so you won’t find oranges at our market or tomatoes on the first day.”
In addition to standard farmers’ market fare, you’ll also find canned vegetables, fresh flowers, homemade bread and baked goods, jams and jellies, local honey and more.
“You can’t come once and say you’ve experienced our market,” says Helmuth. “It changes every time.”
The Tupelo Farmers’ Depot is different than a produce stand. A produce stand can buy goods in bulk from anywhere and re-sell them, but a farmer’s market is truly seasonal and 100 percent locally grown.
Sarah Stewart, DTMSA program associate, says the market also offers fun programming throughout the season.
“We try to offer events to bring people to the market,” Stewart says. “We have planned kids’ activities, chef demonstrations, games and live music just to name a few. We keep our Facebook page updated with what’s going on each week at the market, so that is the best place to stay on top of what’s going on.”
The farmers are as diverse as the shoppers. Some are younger and have a garden in their backyard and participate in the market as a supplement to their income, and some are retired and focus solely on their sales at the market.
Jimmy Sheffield of Mooreville has been setting up at the market since it started in 2000. Sheffield is 83 and works six days a week.
“I grew up on a farm and we raised what we ate,” he says. “I retired and realized I couldn’t go home and sit on the couch so I started farming again. People ask me how I do it at my age and I just work every day like I always did to get it done. I can’t see retiring and sitting in front of the TV all day.”
Sheffield grows a wide variety of vegetables – tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, pole beans, beets, cabbage, okra, corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, potatoes and peas – to name a few. He occasionally hires a teenager from church to help him get everything picked. “I enjoy going to the market and seeing all the nice people,” he says. “Farming keeps you guessing because you really never know how your crop will turn out.”
The Tupelo Farmers’ Depot is a Mississippi Department of Agriculture Certified Market. This certification program ensures that the produce is grown locally. Helmuth attends yearly training to make sure the Farmers’ Depot meets all current regulations. “This certification shows there’s some integrity behind what we do – it’s not just a pop-up,” he says. Another benefit is that most things sold at the market do not require sales tax.
The building used by the market was originally south of the current location and was used by the railroad for storage. It was moved across the tracks and used by Tupelo Public Works for storage until it was moved to its current location on Spring Street, right by the tracks, in 2000 and became the Tupelo Farmers’ Market. In spring 2015, some changes were made to the hours and new landscaping was added, along with changing the name to the Tupelo Farmers’ Depot to embrace the location of the market in the crossing of two major railroads.
By Genie Alice Bruce