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Fresh from the farm
Summer tradition continues when market opens
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Homegrown just about beats all.
Homegrown had to beat all three-quarters of a century ago when Waymon Tate's father set him to plowing his own mule, back when homegrown was all there was.
And Tate, the 85-year-old manager of the Forsyth County Farmer's Market, thinks homegrown still beats all.  
Though there's no shortage of drive-thru chicken biscuits and sloppy, slung-together sandwiches available aside nearly any piece of pavement these days, one slab of local asphalt is reserved through the summer for produce grown in ground red as ripe tomatoes.
"People like homegrown fresh groceries," Tate said.
The farmer's market opens this week at the Cumming Fairgrounds, running Wednesdays and Saturdays through September.
After a lifetime of growing vegetables for other people's tables, Tate took this season of planting, hoeing and picking off. But he plans to be out at the 7 a.m. opening of the market Wednesday anyway.
"I like to meet people," he said.
The market's suggested price list reads like a rundown of a Southern grandmother's summer Sunday supper spread: Tomatoes, squash, new potatoes, peas, green beans, butter beans, okra.
Edsel Orr, 79, a farmer and the market president, likely will spend the better part of his summer pulling and selling sweet corn, tomatoes and melons grown on the same spot in southern Forsyth County where he grew up.
"I enjoy it, but it's a lot of work," Orr said last week, as he stood near his fields sweating under a straw hat.
This season it seems Orr may have plenty of company.
"There's more people interested in the farmer's market this year than ever before," he said. "I guess with gas prices what they are and this economy, everybody decided to have a little backyard garden."
Market vendors must hail from North Georgia and sell only locally grown produce.
Tate and Orr were among the founders of the farmer's market decades ago. Local growers first peddled their produce at Mashburn's apple house on Hwy. 9, then at a Methodist church on Pilgrim Mill Road.
Dahlonega farmer Fred Willis began bringing his crops to the fairgrounds site about eight years ago.
"People of Forsyth County are real nice, considerate people," Willis said. "There's a big difference in going to the farmer's market in Cumming and going to the farmer's market in Atlanta."
Willis and his wife, Janie, do all of the work on their farm, he said, with the occasional help of their daughter, Tina.
"All of the farmers is what makes the market," he said. "It's the whole team. It takes everybody. ... Most of the time there's a good variety. Sometimes if we don't have it, somebody else will. It works good that way."