LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - To discover the flavor of life in Central Arkansas, seek out the freshest flavors of our local farmers markets.
“It is a happy place, it is a bustling place, it is a place of high commerce. It is a place where you’re supporting local people and keeping your local dollars in a local place," said Tammy Pope, who owns Tammy Sue's Critters.
"A lot of entrepreneurs around here, people trying to do something," added Mark Deal, of Rory Girl Premium Spices.
Part of the fun of a farmers' market is sampling what people choose to make. Of course there are all the fresh, local fruits and vegetables, but you can find people selling great honey, barbecue sauce, wine, and more.
"In our milk products, we have soap and lotion," Pope stated. "In our bees wax, we have lip balm, solid perfume, bug banisher, deodorant, cuticle salve."
Kelly Carney, owner of North Pulaski Farms, said he has, "nice okra, we have good sweet peppers, our tomatoes are still doing quite well, we’ve got eggplant, cantaloupe’s coming on.”
It is also fun to talk to all the sellers and find out how they created their business. Some come from generations of farmers. Others made more spur-of-the-moment decisions.
“My brother-in-law, Joey, has a barbecue sauce-making business," Deal said, "and he was doing it and I saw him doing it, I thought, sounded kinda fun.”
“Our son showed up one day with two goats," Pope explained. "And one thing led to another, we had more goats.”
There are usually more local shoppers at the markets in The Heights or Hillcrest, but people from all over the world bring back a slice of Arkansas from markets in North Little Rock and the River Market.
“There was a lady from Italy here this morning, wasn’t she?" Deal recalled. "Yeah, so we get some out-of-towners.”
“It is a mix," Pope stated. "We do get a lot of locals, but because we’re on the trolley route, and the trolley stops, we get a lot of people that are touring here from out of town. And they will purchase from us because it’s not perishable, and take that on with them.”
And the sellers enjoy the chance to chat with their customers.
“So we can get feedback from people, so we know what they like. It’s instant feedback," Carney mentioned. "You know, when someone calls me their farmer, I consider that the biggest compliment I can get from somebody.”
There are even a pair of online farmers markets so you can shop from home. But a website cannot duplicate the smells of all the fresh food, the chance to sample a few things, and the opportunity to meet the neighbors who grow and make the things you will enjoy.
Even the farmers enjoy the spirit of the market.
“We trade stuff all the time," Carney said. "I’m trading roasted peppers for melons over there after the end of this market. You know, this is how I grocery shop. So it’s kind of nice knowing where your food comes from. Imagine that!"
The River Market and Hillcrest markets are open in Little Rock on Saturdays, while the Dogtown and Argenta markets are open each Saturday in North Little Rock. The Bernice Gardens hosts a farmers' market on Sundays. The River Market has a smaller market during the day on Tuesday, while Westover Hills Presbyterian Church hosts a market in The Heights on Tuesday afternoons.