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Eastern Kentucky University employee Joann Weaver, left, purchases tomatoes Thursday from Billy Tudor, right, at the Richmond Farmer’s Market at EKU as vendor Maxey Tate of Waco, center, chats with a customer.

Eastern Kentucky University employees do not have to leave campus this summer to get their Early Girls or Lemon Boys.

Those who may regard Early Girls, Pink Girls, Sweet Girls and Lemon Boys as “too sissy” can try a Beef Master or a Goliath.

For readers unfamiliar with the latest varieties of fresh produce, those are the names of tomato varieties local farmers are selling in three outdoor Richmond markets each week.

Some shoppers may be surprised to learn that they also can buy locally grown “Chocolate,” Rainbow and Cherokee Purple tomatoes as well as Rattlesnake beans from local farmers.

In addition to markets set up in the Lowe’s parking lot off the Eastern Bypass from 8 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and Saturdays, this year, the farmers were invited to set up from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Thursday in the EKU parking lot between Dupree and Palmer residences hall across the street from the Powell Building.

Last year, the university’s wellness program, “Healthy You at EKU,” bused interested employees to the farmers’ market at Lowe’s, said Leanna Bowles, a wellness analyst in the EKU Human Resources Department.

The convenience of having a farmers’ market on campus this year has prompted many more EKU employees to purchase fresh-picked produce, Bowles said.

“Our employees love it,” she said.

About 125 people have signed in each day the market has been in session Bowles said. At noon this past Thursday, 91 had registered.

The market is open to everyone, not just EKU employees, Bowles said, and the university has blocked off enough parking to accommodate off-campus shoppers and will reserve more if needed.

“Healthy You at EKU” promotes good-eating as well as good-exercise habits, she said, and one of the best ways to boost nutrition is to each fresh vegetables.

“Look at that,” said Roger Hurt of Kirksville, as he held up a Goliath tomato larger than the palm of his hand, weighing 1.5 pounds.

His “Bodacious, super-sweet” tomatoes are so tasty, “You can eat one like an apple,” Hurt said.

An articulate advocate for the nutritional benefits of locally grown produce, Hurt said vegetables at supermarkets that advertise “fresh produce” often have had them trucked a day or more to reach Richmond.

“Our produce was picked this morning and can be on your table this evening,” he said. “That as fresh as you can get.”

The promised freshness of the farmers’ produce is real because they usually sell out each day.

Corn sells out early, the farmers told shoppers who showed up at noon Thursday. Had they been there at 10 a.m., the shoppers could have sacked up some bi-color, sweet or Silver Queen corn.

Susan Daniel of Forked Tree Farm in Estill County apologized for the slender size of the few remaining ears of corn she had.

“We have to pick them before the ’coons get them,” she said.

“This has been an abundant year for squash,” said Maxey Tate of Waco. “It’s ripening quickly in this heat.”

Tate also is the market’s resident comedian.

“I thought of you this morning,” he told a customer. “Why was that?” the customer asked. “Well, I saw a turkey crossing the road on my way here,” Tate replied.

Cantaloupe and watermellon are starting to ripen and will be coming in soon, said Billy Tudor, who still had some okra, cucumbers, peppers and bean at noon Thursday.

Goliaths were not the only giant tomatoes on sale Thursday.

“This one is almost as big as my face,” said Sierra Emmerich, a petite young woman who was selling for Baldwin Farms, as she pointed to a Brandywine tomato.

Paula Jones and Myra Isbell have baked goods and jams as well as an array of vegetables, including an assortment of peppers for sale.

Jones coordinates the markets with the Madison County Extension Center and the state Agriculture Department’s Kentucky Proud marketing program.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmondregister.com or at 624-6622.

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