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A slice of freshness has returned to Columbus with the opening of the city’s two Saturday farmers markets, across from Mill Race Park and outside FairOaks Mall.

Before 9 a.m. on Saturday, area vendors prepped their stalls in anticipation of the opening of the Columbus Summer Farmers Market. Booths four rows deep burst forth with fresh produce, meats, baked goods and handicraft pieces at the market, which sets up in the Cummins parking lot at Brown and Lindsey streets. The downtown market draws roughly 2,000 visitors to the 89 vendor stalls.

During the season, market manager Teresa Fischer’s day starts at 6:15 a.m. when she arrives at the parking lot to ensure it’s ready for vendors. Fischer, who’s in her fourth year managing the market, also sells birdhouses and leather goods at Fischer’s Feathered Friends.

“You couldn’t have asked for better weather,” she said, gazing out on the market for its second weekend of the summer. “One of my main goals is to be able to get to know the vendors and the unique items that they have, and that they have a venue that they can sell from.”

By the 9 a.m. start time, the market was filling with shoppers.

The smells of freshly made omelets came from the Daughter 2 Chef omelet booth. In another corner, trainers from Tipton Lakes Athletic Club set up mats and demonstrated workout moves. The band Cottonpatch played music that drifted over the crowd.

Rahul Kallurwar, fresh from a run at Mill Race Park, eyed the scene to decide what he would take home with him from the market. The Cummins development engineer likes to supplement the produce from his garden with locally grown tomatoes, spinach and peppers.

“The farmers market is a good opportunity for local farmers to share what they can do,” he said. “Everyone is unique here. That’s what I like about it.”

Rosie Barnes of Elizabethtown sells hand-spun, solar-dyed yarn and handmade knit goods under the name Creations by Ro. Saturday morning found her behind her spinning wheel as she waited for her first customers of the day.

“I absolutely love the market,” she said, her foot pumping at the spinning wheel’s treadle. “The people are wonderful. Being able to share my passion with other people is the best part of the market.”

From behind piles of verdant produce, including snap peas and assorted lettuces, Mary Lou Nay had her first day — ever — as a market vendor. The Brown County farmer’s sales pitch was already refined.

“See these gorgeous snap peas? I sit and eat them like potato chips,” she said. “I don’t use any insecticides.”

Cummins summer intern Brennen Mehl nabbed her chair at the Knitters Nook table, where a knitters group was set up. Hailing from Bardstown, Kentucky, Mehl noted that her hometown does not offer a farmers market as large as the downtown market. Nibbling on a gouda-and-bacon roll from a nearby booth, Mehl listed her Saturday shopping list.

“I want to get some vegetables and some herb starters. I’m also super excited about the cookies,” she said, indicating the Redbud Tree Bakery baked goods in the booth adjacent the knitting table. “I intend to come every weekend that I can.”

Also underway Saturday was the Columbus City Farmers Market at the FairOaks Mall parking lot. The market features two rows of 12 total vendors and a barbecue truck. Scents of smoked meats permeated the morning air.

Liana Lienhoop sells produce at the Hackman’s Farm Market stall.

“This market has easier parking for people sometimes,” she said.

“This is so convenient for me,” said shopper Bobbie Pittman, who stopped at the market for produce. “And look how beautiful it is today.”

Dawn Palmer, owner of A Thyme for All Seasonings, is in her first year of selling balsamic vinegars, hot sauces and seasonings at Columbus City Farmers Market.

“We enjoy the flavor,” she said. “We enjoy the people, and we enjoy the exposure. It exposes our business to a larger number of people. This market brings in different people.”

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