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Mini-Market brings blueberry growers

The sun was shining as locals wandered the mini blueberry market held on June 13, the date the annual Blueberry Jubilee was originally scheduled. The market offered blueberry lemonade, blueberry popsicles sweetened with honey, blueberry muffins, blueberry pies and boxes filled with blueberries to the customers who visited Poplarville’s City Square Park that Saturday.

Due to the large crowds it draws and the regulations limiting large gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Jubilee has been rescheduled for October.

But J&D Blueberry Farm and April Grecho, an organizer for the Poplarville Farmer’s Market, decided to organize the mini market to show support for local blueberry growers. Proceeds from the $20 vendor fees were donated to sponsor a Hometown Hero banner in Poplarville.

“I wanted to show a level of unity because our Blueberry Jubilee was postponed until October,” said Jeff Brown with J&D Blueberry Farm.

With only five vendors, the market was small, but it gave attendees a chance to find their favorite blueberry treats at the height of the blueberry-growing season.

Vendors came from Poplarville, Hattiesburg and Lumberton.

Brown sold blueberries and handed out free blueberry popsicles. Brown said he wanted to offer something for free to show the community gratitude for their support.

Paige and Paul Prechter along with their three daughters sold blueberry muffins and juice. The family owns Elizabeth, Hope and Grace Farms and are relatively new to blueberry farming. They came to the 2018 Blueberry Jubilee, but had a blueberry harvesting disaster and weren’t able to sell at the 2019 Jubilee. With a large harvest this year, the family planned to sell again at the Jubilee. Instead, they worked all week baking muffins for the mini-market.

Although the juice did not sell as well, the family sold 30 muffins by 10 a.m., said Paige Prechter. The family planned to donate their profits from the market to the Backpack Buddies of Poplarville.

Baked goods were a hit at the mini-market. Julie Bounds with Bound’s Blueberry Farm said they sold out of blueberry pies right away. Although the market had significantly less foot traffic than the Jubilee, people were friendly and happy to be out, said Bounds.

Market goer Jacob Cochran said the muffins and blueberry lemonade were delicious. Cochran said he came to the event to support local small businesses.

“With COVID a lot of them weren’t able to sell as much,” he said.

Business has been slower this year for Aunt Polly’s Farm, said Polly Arnold. She said she normally sells at local festivals and farmers markets, many of which have been cancelled.

“But you have to keep people safe,” said Arnold.

Arnold and her son Travis Arnold took safety precautions such as wearing face masks, using hand sanitizer and not giving out samples.

Family Dollar donated hand sanitizer to the mini-market to help with hygiene, said Brown.

Although the market was small, customers were just as happy to take home blueberries. One customer came to Arnold’s table for a half gallon of blueberry lemonade, but couldn’t resist the temptation to also purchase four boxes of blueberries to make a pie, before wandering off to find some blueberry muffins for breakfast.