Farmers market vendors battle season's extremes

SUWANEE -- At the height of the summer heat wave, Greg Earle had back-to-back days of 112-degree heat on his Madison County farm.

"It literally cooked tomatoes right there on the vine," said Earle as he setup on Tuesday at the Suwanee Farmers Market. "There were a lot of vegetables thrown away on those 100-degree days."

Earle said his farm suffered, but he knows of several farmers who had it worse.

The extreme heat and recent rainfall has caused problems for farmers who sell produce at the market on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Yet customer traffic hasn't been affected by the weather, farmers market manager Rosalie Tubre said.

"We've been steady," she said. "We've got good customers who continue to come. I haven't seen a decline. I keep saying 'Tuesday will slow down,' but it hasn't."

Suwanee's Tuesday evening market has two remaining weeks, as it wraps up when school begins. The Saturday morning market continues into October, except for Suwanee Day on Sept. 15.

For Michael Shook, whose farm is in Cleveland, some of his tomatoes grew too fast, cracked and moisture soon caused fungus. But Shook said because he plants his crops later in the season to avoid a frost, he's been able to avoid a dent in his yield.

"It hurt us a little bit," said Shook has sold at the Suwanee market since it began. "But we gained it back a little bit there because we're just coming into our peak."

Earle also has noticed mold from recent rains, but it also helped to come immediately after the extreme heat wave, he said.

"You won't ever hear me complain about rain," he said.

Tubre said okra and eggplant are beginning to hit their peak, while tomatoes and peppers are nearing the end of their growing season.

Earle said he's had a consistent flow of customers and some repeat customers. When the Tuesday Suwanee market closes, Earle said he would look for another weekday market. He also sells at the Snellville Farmers Market on Saturdays.

"I should have enough inventory to sell through September," he said.