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Fresh take: Nay-Ture’s Hilltop Farm

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Retired school teacher Mary Lou Nay works her small farm daily along with her husband, James, and son, Jacob.

“I don’t think people really understand a small farm operation,” she said. “It’s really different.”

She looks on her time at the Columbus Summer Farmers Market as a chance to educate her customers — whether it’s on the values of locally produced veggies or extending an invitation to her farm, which features a you-pick component for the farm’s berry and pumpkin output.

Vendor name: Nay-ture’s Hilltop Farm

City of residence: Columbus

How and when did you become a part of the market?

This is my first year at the Columbus Summer Farmers Market. We originally started out thinking primarily we would have only berries and pumpkins. We have almost every berry you can think of. We had to figure out a way to sell them.

What do you sell?

Berries, pumpkins and flowers. I sell probably as many flowers and plants as I do vegetables. I pick them by hand. I can do quality control while I’m picking them. And vegetables — lots of zucchini — and herbs of all kinds.

How long have you been making/growing/crafting your goods?

We’ve been commercially selling for three years — we’re babies at this.

Talk about the process of creating your items, the time, supplies and skills involved:

This year I planted my snap peas on March 1. I love picking raspberries. One of my real joys is working with children.

What do you like about being a part of the market?

For one thing, the people there are lovely. Not just the customers, but also the other vendors. The lady who runs it just has been so good to me. And I enjoy meeting new people.

What were you looking forward to most during your first year at the market?

Just meeting people and telling people about the farm — as well as developing a clientele of my own, primarily for the berries. I know the clientele is in Columbus — I just have to tell them who I am.

What’s been one of your most memorable experiences participating in the market?

Occasionally I see a little child who would enjoy having a zinnia, and I give them a flower. They smile and they thank me. It’s one of those simple acts of kindness. I enjoy watching people pick out their flowers to create their bouquets. During a recent market, one young woman was so excited about picking out the colors and textures to make an absolutely beautiful arrangement.

What types of conversations do you have with the shoppers?

Lots of things: About how to plant, recipes, how to care for products, how I’ve grown the produce and the value of the produce. I give them growing tips, and I teach them about marigolds and how they keep the bugs away.

Do you think people are becoming more interested in locally produced items? If so, why?

Absolutely. It’s so important to have this market. They expect something real. So many people have shared stories of experiences with insecticides. You’ve got a product in the stores and you have no idea what’s gone on it.

What are your plans when the market ends?

I freeze anything I have left over as best I can — and the next year I sell jams. I don’t have a greenhouse, so I can’t produce things real early. Our you-pick farm runs until Oct. 31. And, for the past two years, after Oct. 31 I fly out to California to visit my granddaughters.

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