Barksdale Pavilion in Jones Park provided the ideal setting as local farmers, fishermen, and businesses set up shop at the Gulfport Harbor Farmers Market in Gulfport today, the first time in several weeks in the wake of COVID-19 concerns.
Customers flowed throughout the Gulfport Harbor Farmers Market in a steady stream on Wednesday. Hunter Myrick was one of them. “Talking to one of my buddies this morning, just something to do. Get out of the house. I didn’t have to work today, neither did he. So just being able to get out of the house finally and have something to do, being outside.”
Kevin Gabbert spent the day shoring up business for his locally-owned Deer Island Oyster Company on the first day in several weeks that the market was back in business. “It’s been a steady traffic all morning, since nine. I mean, I don’t have a lot to compare it to. This is my first time here and the first time they’re back open. But it has been really nice. Selling a lot of oysters.”
Oysters that are usually preserved by his company for the Half Shell Oyster House and other restaurants. “Well the COVID-19 obviously affected the restaurants and of course without the restaurants you don’t have people eating, without the people eating you don’t have the people eating the oysters. So, it slowed us down. I mean, it pretty much put a halt on our business. But, you know, like people in South Mississippi have always done, we found a way to adapt. So instead of selling to restaurants, we turn right around and sell them to the public.”
With the restrictions put on the food and service industry due to COVID-19, local vendors have seen big hits to their businesses. Shoppers say it’s even more important to shop local now. “Local businesses took a bigger hit than really anybody really with everything COVID-19. You know, unfortunately, I think some won’t be able to bounce back from it. So anything that you can do to support local businesses, whether it be at a farmers market, going to eat lunch or dinner, whether that be to-go if you’re not comfortable yet eating there. But whatever you can do, I think it’s extremely important.”
Especially to local business owners like Kevin Gabbert. “So it’s worked out. You know, we’ve got our challenges. The Bonnet Carre Spillway was open again and it’s here we come in storm season. I mean, it’s just one of those things and it’s basically a farmer’s life. There’s always something it seems like, especially in South Mississippi.”
The Gulfport Harbor Farmers Market opens on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Now it and the Ocean Springs Fresh Market are participating in the SNAP program, doubling dollars spent with EBT cards up to $20 a day for fresh produce.
The SNAP benefits can be spent on anything edible at the market, but the matching dollars have to be spent on fruits and vegetables.