By Mickey Howley
Not that I’m any kind of farmer or outdoors planting guy, but I pay attention to when we have the last frost. Last year it was May 4. I know this because I was up at 4:30 a.m. scraping ice off my GMC’s windshield. This year the last Valley frosting was April 15, which is about the traditional normal last date. Why do I pay attention to this last big chill date? Tomatoes.
Last frost and first tomatoes are connected and I love local tomatoes. So do many others. And they want to buy that vine ripe, just-picked succulence direct at the Farmers Market. This spring despite having a near normal frost date it was much cooler than average. The ground was cold—I’m told all this, I’m no expert on tomatoes, I just like to eat them. So tomatoes will be late this year. What I do know is the one rule of Farmers Markets—no tomatoes means no market. Pray for good weather, let’s see how it goes and the opening date for the eighth season of the Water Valley’s Farmers Market is set for Saturday morning May 31. If you are a local produce grower and would like to sell at the market, contact me at email@example.com. And if you are just a tomato connoisseur or just like the Farmers Market coffee–mark your calendar for the opening date.
May 12 through 16 is National Small Business Week. “Here’s to the dreamers, doers, shakers, and makers” as Google says. I don’t think there is a national big business week—wait a minute—big business week is pretty much every week. But small is big in an important way, fully 50% of the work force is employed by small businesses. Small Water Valley businesses have been getting lots of regional press this week. Three local magazines in the last week all have Water Valley stories—and all of them related to small businesses. Delta Magazine has a five-page article titled “The Water Valley Magic” and features downtown businesses like Yalobusha Brewery, the BTC Old-Fashioned Grocery, and Crawdad Hole. The article clearly has a food angle and suggests folks “head to the hills for an old-fashioned stroll down Main Street.”
At Home Memphis Magazine has a four-page article titled “Mississippi’s Best Kept Secret” and features the same businesses that Delta featured, but adds D and D House of BBQ, Turnage Drugs, and Bozarts Gallery. That article suggests there is plenty to do and see if you are day tripping from Memphis. Invitation Oxford Magazine has a six-page article titled “Setting Her Pace” on Jennifer Pace and her My Blue Heaven boarding house and pottery studio on north Main Street.
This regional press will have a greater impact than recent national press. Here is how that works, an estimated 700k people will see the recent Preservation Maga-zine article, but that’s folks all over the country. Most will like the story but maybe not visit unless they by chance happen to be in north Mississippi.
But readers of Delta, At Home Memphis, and Oxford Invitation are already close. And they’ll visit. For example, Andy O’Bryan of Yalobusha Brewery says more than half of the Friday afternoon brewery tour visitors are regional—meaning further than 20 miles but less than 100. And those folks visiting for what ever reason will want to take a little bit of Water Valley home and that’s good for small businesses on the Valley’s Main Street.