Growers and greenhouses are gathering an enormous bouquet for local flower lovers.
The special occasion is the 20th annual Flower Day Weekend at the Toledo Farmers' Market, featuring Flower Day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday and Market Days from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday.
About 50,000 people are expected over the three-day period at the Farmers' Market, which is at the corner of Market and Superior streets in downtown Toledo's Warehouse District. Free parking is available throughout the area.
On Flower Day, the regular Farmers' Market vendors - local farmers who sell items such as produce, baked goods, and eggs - will be joined by members of the Toledo Area Fruit and Vegetable Growers who will set out thousands of colorful flats, hanging baskets, and container gardens for sale. Vegetable plants - including some heirloom varieties - herbs, shrubs, garden art, and craft items such as hand-made birdhouses also will be available.
Some vendors will be at the market all three days.
"Generally people can find the most value for their money at our Farmers' Market, because you're buying direct from the grower rather than a middle person," said Dan Madigan, executive director of the Farmers' Market Association of Toledo.
"Prices are pretty close to being the same as last year," he added. "Everyone's been trying to hold the line on increases."
The market also has come up with a way to accommodate people who want to pay with plastic rather than cash.
"We now have a system setup that we operate during market hours to accept all major credit/debit cards in addition to the Ohio Direction cards," Madigan explained. "We have a central processing station where customers can use their cards and then depending on the amount, they are either given market tokens that they can use anywhere on the market (minted Toledo Farmers' Market coins) or for large purchases a voucher to show their credit card transaction was approved. FMAT vendors then settle up later; there is no fee for the customers to do this."
Interest in vegetable and flower gardening is expected to be strong this season, despite the wilted economy - or perhaps because of it.
Madigan said more people are trying to stretch their food budget this year by growing their own vegetables. And because many cash-strapped families can't afford a getaway vacation, they're investing more time and energy on their yards, he said.
Sunday's Flower Day highlights will include live music by local band Whiskey Before Breakfast, and fair foods such as kettle corn, hot dogs, funnel cakes, lake perch, onion rings, and fries. Master gardeners from Ohio State University's Extension Office will be on hand to answer questions and offer advice on plant selection, soil conditions, pest and weed control, and related topics.
To help buyers with their purchases, Boy Scouts will run a free package pickup area and load plants into vehicles.
Flower Day Weekend will appeal even to those people who aren't gardeners, Madigan promised. "It's a nice, relaxing time."
Flower Day Weekend at the Toledo Farmers' Market in downtown Toledo takes place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday. Sunday is Flower Day, and Saturday and Monday are Market Days. Parking is available along Erie Street in front of the Erie Street Market, 237 South Erie, and throughout the Warehouse District. Information: 419-255-6765 or toledofarmersmarket.org.
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