There is nothing better in the summer than a good tomato sandwich. It has to be made the right way though – with soft, white loaf bread; real mayonnaise; a little salt; and of course a fresh, red, homegrown tomato.

I’m growing a garden so I can have some really good tomatoes for my sandwiches, but my tomatoes are still little and green and probably will not be red for a few more weeks.

What will I do until they are ripe? Visit one of our local farmers markets of course. Many more experienced gardeners than I, who planted their tomatoes early in the season, are willing to share with their neighbors at these markets.  Ripley Farmer’s Market is starts Saturday and Benton County’s market started today.  These markets are great places to find homegrown produce, fresh baked pastries, canned vegetables and preserves, and also homemade crafts, soaps and other artisan wares.

Last year at the Benton County’s market in Ashland, I tried some of the best mustard I had ever eaten. It was homemade, canned and nothing like what you find in the store. I also was excited to find a variety of the sweetest and tangiest cherry and grape tomatoes, grown by several weekly vendors.

The market also had fresh blackberries, cabbage, lettuce, zucchini, squash, flowers, brownies, sweet breads, an assortment of canned goods, snow cones and more.

I love talking to the vendors and learning from them. I have met new people and made new friends at these markets. I have learned who grows what and when to expect their next crops to be in. I have even picked up a few tips for my own garden from these farmers.  The atmosphere is friendly and down home.  

Make a point to visit  one of our farmers markets this season. Buy some red, ripe tomatoes or homemade bread. Try a new type of cucumber or squash. Meets some new people and make new friends.

Ripley’s market is located on the square Saturdays 7 – 11 a.m. and the Benton County market is located on the courthouse lawn in Ashland on Wednesdays from 8:30 - 11:30 a.m.  I’m sure you will find fresh treats and homemade goods you will love and make some new friends too.

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