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‘Sunny’ debut for farmers market

Spring-like weather, complete with high March winds, ushered in this year's edition of the Baker County Farmers Market in north Macclenny.The Baker County Farmers Market kicked off its 2012 season under sunny skies and brisk winds at Macclenny City Park on March 3, offering something for just about everybody, including fresh vegetables, flowering and fruit-bearing plants, handmade jewelry and homemade baked goods.

For entertainment during the five-hour event from 8 am until 1 pm, there was music by the Bluegrass Breeze and clogging demonstrations by a local 4-H group.

If the first Saturday was any indication the weekly market should be a big hit this year, said Darryl Register, co-chair of the event and director of the Baker County Chamber of Commerce.

“I was very satisfied and happy,” Mr. Register said. “We’d love to have more vendors. But we had seven, and during the fall run we never had more than four.”

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8th graders visit Olustee Battlefied State Park for ‘living history’ lesson

8th graders tour the Town of Olustee.For the first time in more than a decade Baker County Middle School students took a field trip to visit historical re-enactors and demonstrators at the Olustee Battlefield the morning of February 17.

History teacher Gayle Combs said that because the annual Olustee Battle reenactment falls so close to the start of FCAT testing, her students had not been able to attend since 2001.

“This is the time of year when we’re intense about pushing for FCAT  …  so they don’t like us taking field trips at this time,” she said, adding that the writing test taken by fourth, eighth and tenth graders begins February 28.

But after meeting with middle school principal Sherry Barrett and convincing her the trip was worthwhile, students were once again able to see up close a re-creation of what life might have been like during the Civil War.

See video from the BCMS field trip here. A slideshow of photos from the field trip and the annual Olustee Battle re-enactment festivities is available here. Prints of the photos may be ordered from the Gallery tab on the homepage by clicking the “Click here to see and order photos from the newspaper” button.

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Inmates taking advantage of GED prep, tests

Instructor Gary Taylor meets with GED students at county jail.Inmates at county jail who don’t have a high school diploma have ample opportunity to make good use of all that spare time on their hands.

And judging from the number of inmates who have received their GED high school equivalency degrees in recent years, a respectable number are taking advantage of a program offered jointly by the school district’s adult education program and the sheriff’s department.

“The purpose is to get them to complete the education that they started and for one reason or another didn’t complete,” said Ann Watts, the school district’s director of career and adult education.

“Many of them have the maturity level where they now can see the value in it [getting a GED] and they’ve decided this is a good use of their time,” she said.

The study course that draws mostly local inmates but can also include those in the custody of the US Marshals Service is held once a week on Fridays for six hours of individual and group instruction by Gary Taylor, who teaches a similar course at Baker Correctional.

It takes between 120-160 days to complete the requirements and pass the test, and in 2010-11 seven of the 11 inmates enrolled did so. Last year the figures jumped a bit with 11 graduates among the 18 enrollees.

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Group training for Gate River Run

From left: Christa Figgins, Connie Walker, Michael Figgins, Debbie Foran and Sarah Green take the  first steps of a 5-miles run on a recent Saturday morning.

The 35th annual Gate River Run draws thousands of professional and amateur runners to Jacksonville for the largest 15K in the nation. Many are from Baker County.

For this year’s event — which also features a 5K run and children’s run in addition to the 9-mile race with $85,000 in prize money up for grabs — the Baker County YMCA started group training sessions for the Gate River Run.

Y member Connie Walker spearheaded the effort with help from facility staffers by inviting those interested to three weekly training sessions, which began January 3. She also supplied runners with a training schedule to gradually build up their endurance through race day on March 10.

Ms. Walker said about 10 joggers regularly meet for training runs on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings, though attendance at a bi-weekly discussion session on topics like proper footwear and other tips has been lacking.

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