Farmers feeling fruitful as summer finally arrives
by ELANE JONES
Jun 20, 2012 | 1152 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lorenzo Harris, at right, was one of several farmers at the Walker County Farmers Market on Tuesday. - Photo by: Elane Jones.
Lorenzo Harris, at right, was one of several farmers at the Walker County Farmers Market on Tuesday. - Photo by: Elane Jones.
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Even though temperatures have been in the upper 90s off and on for a few weeks, the summer solstice, which signals the official first day of summer, is today.

As a part of the summer solstice, the sun will reach its farthest point north of the equator at noon today. The natural phenomenon will creates more sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere than any other time of the year.

The official start of summer also means area farmers selling fresh produce at the Walker County Farmers Market on North Airport Road in Jasper are gearing up for one of their busiest times of the year as many crops are ready or almost ready to harvest.

“Even though summer is here, we (the farmers) are still pretty busy raising crops, which means we will still have plenty of vegetables to offer for sale during the summer,” Lorenzo Harris, a farmer from Blount County, said Tuesday. “I will have pretty much everything, from okra to peas, during the summer months. About the only thing I probably won’t have is squash and cucumbers.”

Harris is one of the many farmers who were set up Tuesday at the Walker County Farmers Market to sale the vegetables he had raised on his farm in Hayden.

The official start of summer also has two students from the University of Alabama very excited about an upcoming festival, which, according to them, will probably be held in late July.

Lauren Metcalf and Kaylyn Vollmer, both of Tuscaloosa, were busy Tuesday weeding the planting beds in the Walker County Community Garden, located on the property at the old Walker County airport. They said a festival will be held in late July in conjunction with the Walker County Farmers Market and a program recently launched in Walker County called the Shape Up Initiative.

The Shape Up Initiative, a recently developed project of Watch 2020, was designed to help improve the overall health of citizens living in Walker County and raise awareness of ways families can provide fresh products for their own tables through the use of community gardens.

Metcalf, a double major in journalism and nonprofit management, and Vollmer, who is majoring in human health and wellness, have been very busy over the past three weeks cleaning up the raised planting beds in the community garden in preparation for the summer growing season.

“We’re doing this in conjunction with the local Farmers Market to help raise awareness about the community garden,” Vollmer said. “These planting beds are available to anyone in Walker County who would like to grow their own vegetables, or flowers, but don't have the space. It's great, several community groups have already rented some of the beds but there are plenty still available to rent.”

For more information about renting one of the raised planting beds in the community garden, Vollmer said citizens or organizations can contact Kathryn Patton with the Walker County Soil & Water Conservation District Office in Jasper at 384-0606.