Mike and Julie O'Brien will be part of the Downtown Madison Farmers Market when it opens for its sixth season on May 21.  The market will be open Tuesdays through the summer growing season 3-6 p.m. on Main Street by Madison Square Center for the Arts.
Mike and Julie O'Brien will be part of the Downtown Madison Farmers Market when it opens for its sixth season on May 21. The market will be open Tuesdays through the summer growing season 3-6 p.m. on Main Street by Madison Square Center for the Arts.
Mike and Julie O’Brien return to the Downtown Madison Farmers Market when it opens May 21 with their “liquid gold.”

The Madison couple will sell their raw, unfiltered local honey just like they have every year since the market opened in 2014. The market will be open Tuesdays, 3-6 p.m. on Main Street.

“We chose to be a part of this market to meet our neighbors, to educate the public on the benefits of local honey, to share our stories with fellow farmers, and to sell our harvest,” Julie O’Brien said. “Our honey money allows us to upgrade our equipment, purchase new queens each year, and invent new and more efficient ways to manage our hives.”

The beekeepers started with one hive about 10 years ago after Mike retired as an engineer and Julie retired as a registered nurse.  They joined the Mississippi Beekeepers Association. “Mike studied and researched the differences in queens, hive management, seasonal scheduling and honey extraction.  Mike builds our hive boxes, frames, lids, and stands.  I get to paint the boxes any color I want.”

Now they have six hives in Madison County and five hives in Hinds County, each hive with approximately 80,000 bees. Since a variety of flowers are in bloom at the same time, the O’Briens’ honey generally contains a mixture of plant nectars. 

“We enjoy beekeeping because it is a challenge every year.  Beekeeping is a business that requires the greatest amount of attention to small details,” she said. “One pound of honey represents 55,000 bee miles and more than two million flowers.

“Beekeeping takes us into a magical, uncluttered world, noticing the small joys of nature.  It is learning to accommodate oneself to nature. We are simple, direct, intelligent, and perhaps just a little bit odd.  We get stung, we get hot, we get disappointed when a hive fails, but we enjoy the experiences of this adventure,” she said.

After the May 21 opening, the Downtown Madison Farmers Market located by Madison Square Center for the Arts will continue to open 3-6 p.m. each Tuesday through the August growing season. 

 The market has proven to be a reliable source of locally grown fruits and vegetables for customers. The Madison market, certified by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture, is always on the lookout for new sellers. Vendors do not pay to be part of the market.

Vendors include local gardeners selling extra produce from backyard plots and farmers wanting a market close to home. Home-based entrepreneurs sell their rolls, cakes, cookies, jellies, pickles and honey. This year’s market includes veteran vendors and those new to the Madison market, selling newly picked fruits and vegetables, fresh Gulf seafood, tomatoes, cheese straws, home-baked breads and cinnamon rolls, dog biscuits and more.

The Main Street market is a good way for customers to learn about the food they’re buying by meeting the producers, O’Brien said.

“As a Madison resident I encourage families to come and learn about the farm families and their produce,” she said. “We want to show our neighbors the differences between store bought and farm raised. Children should be allowed to taste and smell the difference.  All should learn about the health benefits of raw honey.”

Vendors interested in becoming a part of Madison’s market can contact Lucy Weber at (601) 397-4746 or request a registration form by emailing lweber@madisonthecity.com