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Buy veggies in bulk, enjoy them now, save them for later, help your neighbor

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.  (WHNT) - It's an age-old trick to saving money that really comes in handy over the summer months in the Tennessee Valley:  buying lots of fresh fruits and vegetables when they're cheap, and saving what you can for the winter months.

There's a local farmer who has found a way to get the best of the best from Amish farmers in Southern Tennessee and then pass along the savings to her customers.

Susan Ayers-Kelley shared her secret:  Plowboy Produce Auction in Ethridge, Tennessee.

It's a produce auction where you can score big with fruits and veggies that are "in season".

Then, there's a way to save it all for the longhaul.

At Ayers Farmers Market on South Memorial Parkway, you can find all kinds of fresh fruits and veggies at what Susan Ayers-Kelley will tell you are cheap prices.

"You're going to get it cheaper here than you would at a grocery store when the flood [happens], because when I save money, I'm going to pass it on to my customers," said Susan Ayers-Kelley.

She's not talking about a flood that destroys crops, but rather a flood of produce from a plentiful harvest of various crops.

The produce she sells comes from an auction she bought on South Brace Road in Ethridge, Tennessee.

Nearly 2,000 Amish families living and farming nearby bring their produce by horse and buggy there to sell it to the highest bidder.   That includes watermelon, cantaloupe, and tomatoes.

"Everything," said Ayers-Kelley.  "You name it, they grow it.. I mean I've seen vegetables that I've never even heard of before."

She said the way to make it a money-saving venture is by buying bulk and then canning the extras so it lasts for the rest of the year.

"Like tomatoes, there's so many ways that you can put up tomatoes," said Ayers-Kelley.  "You can put up whole tomatoes, you can put up tomato juice, you can put up spaghetti sauce, you can make salsa."

And there's another way to save through something new Ayers-Kelley is offering this year called a Community Sustainable Agriculture Box.  For $400, a group of people or an individual can enjoy a box containing huge amounts of produce delivered once a week for eight weeks.

"It will be a full half-bushel box of just a euphorium of fresh vegetables from the Amish," said Ayers-Kelley.

She points out that not only do you save money, you help your neighbors and enjoy peace of mind about what you're eating.

"You're supporting farmers and you know where your food comes from," said Ayers-Kelley.

She had planned to offer classes in canning in June, but due to severe weather damage at her farm in New Market, she's having to postpone them for now.   So here are a couple of links to show you how to can fruits and veggies.

To sign up for a new Community Sustainable Agriculture Box, call the Ayers Farmers Market at 256-533-5667.

Meanwhile, here's a tip for you:  in June, you'll get good prices on strawberries, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, then, squash and cucumbers.  In July, it's the month for corn, then the berries: blueberries and blackberries.