Natchez resident Sanquanett Allen picks up fresh produce from the Natchez Farmer’s Market Tuesday. Allen lives within walking distance from the market and loves to have locally grown produce readily available. (Photo by Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

Locally grown produce offered to families across the Miss-Lou

Published 12:01am Wednesday, June 6, 2012

 

Eddie Kennedy will tell you that his late wife’s smile could melt an ice cube in zero-degree weather.

He’s also quick to say an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.

The preacher and planter speaks in clichés, but he would tell you that the earth he pulls up with his huge hands to feed his family and others nearby folks is his real form of God’s work.

The six-foot-four-inch grandfather from Oak Grove, La., is a third generation farmer.

“I was born on that farm,” Kennedy said.

He was 5 years old when he would ride on the drag behind one of his family’s five mules.

It wasn’t until 1996, though, that Kennedy “was called” to ministry. That day he gathered his children up to tell them about his news that God wanted him to spread the word. His son asked if Kennedy won the lottery.

“I said, ‘Son, I got a lot better than the lottery — I got it all,” Kennedy said, with a tickled laugh. Still, though, he wakes with the sun and shouts his praises of the Lord from the field, he said.

Kennedy spread out a large family photo album at the Natchez Farmer’s Market Monday afternoon while taking a break from unloading vegetables from his white Chevy pickup.

The proud preacher keeps the album in his truck, ready to show anyone who will look and listen.

“That’s my nephew,” Kennedy said as he pointed to a groom next to his bride. “He cried all the way through his wedding.”

Kennedy is just one of the region’s vendors that provides as much color in his personality as he does in his tomatoes, peaches, sweet corn, potatoes, eggplant, bell peppers and squash.

Oak Ridge, La., farmer Eddie Kennedy is one of many local characters who sells his farm-grown produce to local farmer’s markets. Kennedy, pictured above at Natchez Farmer’s Market, is a major vendor there. (Photo by Emily Lane \ The Natchez Democrat)

Unlike the produce generated at commercial factories or farms for big-name superstores, locals eating local can be assured that their money is going to real, nearby characters like Kennedy.

Vidalia resident Terri Morris said eating a salad with contents picked fresh seems to have more flavor just knowing the time and effort of local people helped cultivate it.

“Somehow that makes it taste better to me,” Morris said.

Morris is a master gardener and supporter of the Farmer’s Market in Vidalia.

“You can pick a cucumber in a garden and go buy one covered in wax from Walmart, and it’s a huge difference,” Morris said.

Dan Wells of Wells Produce said locals grow 90 percent of the vegetables and fruit he sells.

Wells said buying local assures consumers better tasting natural treats because the produce has not been refrigerated.

“You lose the taste with refrigeration,” Wells said.

Michelle Brooks Jr., who works at Natchez Farmer’s Market, said a steady stream of shoppers stopped by Tuesday because it the opening day of vegetable season for the market.

“(Summer) is peak season for the vegetables that people in this area want,” Brooks said.

Those vegetables include tomatoes, four varieties of squash, eggplant, bell peppers, banana peppers, peaches, okra and more.

In this area summer temperatures create soil conditions that are prime for quality produce, Brooks said.

The Natchez Farmer’s Market, located at 199 St. Catherine St., started its peak season Tuesday, and it will last until November.

The market’s peak season hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.

The Vidalia farmer’s market sets up outside the Old Courthouse from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays at 405 Carter St. The market’s season hopefully kicks off today, Morris said.

Wells Produce, located at 221 Homochitto St., is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Kennedy, who wore dress slacks with red suspenders over a plaid short sleeve shirt and cowboy boots for his trip to the big city, said growing food for others makes him happy and keeps him busy. And whenever he takes an inventory of his crops and his happiness, he has God to thank for it.

As for the qualify of the locally grown goods, Kennedy said what chain stores ship from far away does not even compare.

“Our soil carries its own quality, and we got some of that gold.”