TUPELO • Those looking to fill their pantries with local produce and homemade goods will find a bounty of options this weekend with the return of the Tupelo Farmers' Depot.

The Tupelo Farmers' Depot will open for the season this Saturday in downtown Tupelo at 6 a.m. Early offerings from farmers will include strawberries, English peas, new potatoes, cabbage, lettuces, spring onions and carrots. Vendors will also have baked goods, canned goods and fresh flowers for sale.

The market will remain open until noon, or until vendors sell out of goods and call it a day. 

This market returns to its typical opening date after a late start last year due to the pandemic. When it did open, the market was limited to 50% capacity. Customers, vendors, staff and volunteers were also required to wear masks at all times.

This season, with the pandemic seemingly in its waning days, the guidelines have been loosened. 

"Last year, we didn't open when we normally do because of COVID," said Craig Helmuth, program manager for the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association and assistant manager for the market. "When we finally got guidance from the Department of Agriculture, we put those rules in place."

This year, the market's organizers are asking, but not requiring, shoppers to wear masks and practice social distancing.

The market, located on South Spring Street near the railroad tracks, will be open on Saturdays at 6 a.m. throughout the season. 

In typical years, the depot is open three days a week — Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday — until October. For now, organizers will open the market's doors just once a week ... at least until the end of the month.

"If I get down here and vendors say they want to be open Tuesdays afternoons, we'll do that," Helmuth said. "Otherwise, the Tuesday market won't start until June 1."

Twenty-six stalls are available at the farmers' market, although Helmuth said he'll probably have 30 vendors.

"Some don't come until later in the season," he said. "Some we put in the center of the market. Some will only have watermelons for three weeks or corn, and they'll just pull up a trailer or a truck load."

The market really starts hopping in mid-June, when tomatoes start to come in. That's also when peas, squash, corn, green beans and okra will be plentiful.

"We're going to plan some activities this year," Helmuth said. "We hope to have some cooking demos, live music and children's activities. We're also kind of excited because we got a grant through Blue Cross & Blue Shield Healthy Mississippi to purchase tables for the market that will be for use by vendors."

Gary Haynes, a regular vendor at the market, doesn't need tables for his wares. Haynes has built his own wooden tiered stand to showcase his fresh flower arrangements.

"I'll be here Saturday with snapdragons, larkspur, roses, digitalis and a few peonies in arrangements," Haynes said. "I'll also have some annual plants – marigolds and basil – and bedding plants like tomatoes, lettuces, cucumbers and squash for people who want those."

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