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But for the masks, visiting the Kingsport Farmers Market — one of the region’s best open-air season markets — brings one back to normalcy if only for a little while. The familiar sights, sounds and smells of the market are back, and it’s worth a visit even if you leave with nothing, which is all but impossible.

There’s just no comparison in taste and appeal with fresh, local, farm-raised produce, never mind everything else available at the market. It opened April 24, and it will continue every Saturday through October. Beginning May 5, the market opens Wednesdays. Times are 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. both days.

We’ll need a few weeks for summer produce to become available, but when the market’s in full swing there’s a lot of competition under the roof and in the open booths. You might find green bell peppers for 75 cents at one booth, but 50 cents at another. Our approach is to make a swing through the entire market comparing prices and quality, then backtracking to begin collecting plastic bags of veggies.

And yes, most of what you see is local. Here are the rules for vendor categories right from the market’s handbook: Home-grown is defined as a vendor that primarily grows at least 75% of the produce that they sell at the market. Items not grown by a vendor must be labeled with the place of origin, which must not exceed a 100-mile radius of the market, which also is the case for meats, poultry and eggs. Home-grown vendors are given priority for spaces.

Prepared food is defined as a vendor selling items such as homemade baked goods, honey, jams, jellies and canned foods that meet all state and local regulations.

Commercial sales are defined as a vendor selling less than 75% home-grown produce or vendors selling primarily non-homegrown produce, natural product, processed product or animal product. These vendors also encompass those who primarily sell items purchased on a wholesale basis for resale.

All craft items must be 100% produced and hand-crafted by the vendor.

Look for the market’s other programs, including Evening at the Market, which is monthly, with a bluegrass concert. Saturdays with the Chef take place at 9 a.m. in June and July, with local chefs offering free cooking demonstrations.

Always wanted to start a garden in your backyard but unsure where to begin? Just looking to refresh that green thumb? The Homegrown Gardening series presented by Keep Kingsport Beautiful will be announced soon.

Over the years, the market has become a Kingsport tradition and warm-weather welcoming event. We hope to see you there.

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