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Local Freshness

Posted on May 01, 2014 in Farmers Market , Farmer Paul , May-June 2014

Every Thursday and Friday, Paul Johnson drives his truck to independent farms all over Florida, Georgia and Alabama, selecting the best vegetables and fruit to sell at the Seaside Farmers Market. “What folks purchase at Seaside has come straight from field to market within two or three days without any preservatives or refrigeration required,” he says. “That’s why those eggplants have such a taut shiny skin and peaches taste so sweet and juicy. It’s like growing your own, only I’ve got a lot of farmers doing the work.”

He believes his co-op fills a gap in Seaside by providing a greater variety of fresh produce, especially in colder months when crops like tomatoes are not grown locally. Johnson learned the produce business working summers as a teenager at farmers markets in his hometown of Dothan, Ala. “Those early experiences taught me how to interact with growers. Now the co-op gives me the opportunity to develop close relationships with farmers in a three-state region,” he explains. Johnson is the key operator for the Florida retail division but partners with three others who have contracted retail outlets in the other states. Currently they work with 30 growers, and are always adding more. Having a lot of retail outlets gives them more buying power than if they worked independently. “We are able to deliver fresh produce all year,” Johnson says. “Especially with Florida being the biggest producer in the country besides California.”

Johnson contributes his best to the market, and considers it an honor helping to make it shine. He realized what a close-knit community it’s become when his 24-year-old son Braden died in a car accident two years ago. “Braden helped me every summer and everyone got to know him,” he recalls. “The Seaside Farmers Market folks all rallied around me and supported me. I couldn’t have made it without them. They are like family. And I’d be lost without my assistant Rachel Nussvau who helps now.”

This summer when you pick up those Chilton County, Ala. peaches, load up on local tomatoes and corn, and stock up on blueberries. Join Seaside’s vibrant market community by getting to know the wonderful individuals who make it all possible. Like Johnson says, “It’s given me a chance to make new and wonderful friends.”

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