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DECATUR — Summer is the ideal time of year for the freshest produce.

We wait all year for the sweetest corn and juiciest tomatoes.

Because the late spring and early summer were unusually rainy this year, the growing season got a slow start for some gardeners and farmers. Some were able to keep up with the demands, while others are just catching up now. 

Decatur has several farmers markets, but the largest is at Richland Community College on Saturday mornings. Manager Deanna Koenigs said all the selections are seasonal and local, and she posts a list of available items on Facebook each week. 

“Right now we have plenty of greens and other produce,” she said. “We also have other items like soaps, plants, herbs, baked goods, meats and artisans.”

Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers were a few of this year's late bloomers. But Koenigs said many producers have resources such as tunnels and sheds located near or in fields. “So some items are protected,” she said.

Most produce vendors have been able to keep up with the local fruits and vegetables growing season. Those selling produce not typically grown in Illinois, such as cantaloupe or peaches, are not worried.

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Peaches are a popular item at the Taylorville Farmers Market. The Saturday morning market gets the fruit from a grower in Calhoun County in the southwest area of the state. 

"They have been a vendor for us for several years and have delicious peaches," said Marcia Neal, manager of the Taylorville Farmers Market.

The Illinois Farmers Market Association provides information and education for growers and vendors throughout the state, but doesn't have direct access to statistics on what is being sold at markets during the season.

Jane Maxwell, executive director for the Illinois Farmers Market Association, said she was aware that some farmers got a later start to the season, and some products were behind schedule earlier this month. 

Ted Maddox, owner of Maddox Sweet Corn, describes his farming technique as sequential planting. In order to supply about 40 grocery stores and stands, he does not plant all of his crops at the same time.

“I have to plant periodically from April to the end of June, close to three months,” he said. “With all the rain we’ve gotten, my window of opportunity is sometimes minutes.”

The family farm has been challenged by the amount of precipitation this year, but they are still on target for their customers' demands.

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Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR

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"Together Decatur" Columnist and Food and Drink Reporter

“Together Decatur” columnist and food and drink reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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