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Farmers Market fights winter hiberation

By chirst
Dec. 29, 2012 at 6:29 a.m.

The Victoria Farmers Market was a lonely scene  Saturday morning in the Victoria County Health Department parking lot, as the cold weather and holiday season kept vendors and customers at home. Vendors at the market typically do less business during the winter.

The well-worn Victoria Farmers Market cap does little to protect his head from the cold, but Jerry Martin wears it proudly.

"I've done other jobs, but I always do something with the farm. I was raised on it. I still do it. ... It is something I enjoy. There isn't much money in it, but I like it," he said, surveying his winter crop of cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower at the Victoria Farmers Market on Saturday.

Martin, assistant manager of the market, faithfully brings his pickup loaded with vegetables every Saturday to the Victoria County Health Department parking lot, where he waits from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the cold, hot, rain or wind for customers to purchase his vegetables.

"Winter time is always slow. People don't want to get out in it. They think, 'Why do I want to go out in the cold parking lot when I can go into a nice, warm store?' They think it is the same, but they don't know the difference between fresh produce and what's in the store," Martin said.

All of his food, he said, is grown in the area and organic.

During the spring and summer months, Martin said the eight to 15 other vendors can hardly keep up with the crowd, even though the market is open three times a week.

On Saturday, however - a cold, December day with a high of 54 degrees and lows in the 30s - Martin and one other vendor came to the market.

They had eight customers.

"We have to keep the market going," he said. "If we don't come, we have to close it down. And we need to come for our regular customers."

Joella Smith, one of the customers, braved the cold weather to get her weekly supply of vegetables.

She has been coming to the market weekly for years.

"I know where it is grown. You don't know where - when you go to H-E-B - where it was grown," she said about the produce.

Smith, who bought the winter vegetables to make homemade German sausage stew and broccoli cheese soup, said the organic food is just a better option.

Even with regular customers, Martin said the winter months can't compare to the spring and summer.

"I do the best I can," Martin said. "Sometimes I do a little off the farm work, like patching fences and stuff for my neighbors around Mission Valley."

He hopes Victoria grows the winter market, but he isn't sure how to appeal to the customers and vendors to come out.

"That is what everyone is trying to figure out," he said.



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