Farmers in Carroll and surrounding counties, like many farmers nationwide, find their portion of the consumer food dollar continually shrinking. The corporate agricultural model has created an economic climate where most of the value in food products
is added after they leave the farm.
The Carroll County Cooperative Extension office collaborating with Rolling Hills R C& D, Carroll County Farm Bureau and the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce Agribusiness Committee organized the Carroll County Farmland & Rural Preservation Partnership. The Carrollton city government and Carrollton Main Street program established the Cotton Mill Farmers Market to allow local farmers direct market access to consumers. A market was created to bring the local farmer to the local consumer, establishing a personal relationship and allowing the consumer to learn how their food is grown and by whom.
The Cotton Mill Farmers Market has created an outlet for the farmer to sell his products and establish a relationship with the local consumer. This keeps more of the farm profit in the local community.
The market has also provided the consumer with fresher food and a personal connection to the production of his food.
The farmers market has promoted multiple locally grown opportunities within the region to link the agriculture community to the urban, suburban, and business communities and meet a variety of needs.The market has served producers and consumers within a nine-county radius. It has provided a feasible method to sustain local agriculture through increased profit margins, improvements in growing practicies, and shared information in farming and marketing strategies. The market has educated the consumer about the importance of farming to the local economy and community integrity. It also has educated them about nutritious food and the dependence of the community upon agriculture. This interaction has benefited both groups by establishing a link for consumers to the land nd their food.
Market Development: A market steering committee was formed to begin the planning process. This committee was committed to guiding the market to its opening and has an objective to develop a board of directors that is led by farmers and farmer representation. The first board of directors was established in the second season of the market 2003.
Methods of establishment:
1. Market Survey
2. Secure Market location
3. Farmers workshops and orientations
4. Market campaign for the market
5. Hired a market manager
6. Conducted educational workshops on value-added products and small farm management
7. Surveyed cosumers and farmers
8. Outreach to ethnic populations, school groups, and WIC clients
The 2002 and 2003 market season created an outlet for 32 producers and generated $200,000 in farm income while impacting the community by keeping that money in the local economy.
Educational & Outreach Activities
During 2002 and 2003 the market produced and sold t-shirts and canvas shopping bags with the market logo. A seasonal sign marking the location of the market was erected, as well as Saturday signs on the downtown streets. A trailer was purchased and decorated with the market logo and location. This trailer was used to store market tents, tables, chairs and supplies. It also served as a rolling billboard. A website was created and is maintained to inform consumers of events and products available at the market each week.
Extension agent Bill Hodge, producer and market liason Skip Glover, along with producer and market chairman Meredith Barr traveled to Madison County, Georgia, to make a presentation to local producers, extenstion personnel, and community leaders on how to create a local farmers market.
The market managers made numerous presentations to local civic groups, garden clubs, expos, and community leaders on behalf of The Cotton Mill Farmers’ Market on how and why the market was established.
Many workshops were held to educate the producer on creating a successful and profitable market. Topics included how to set up at the market, signage and pricing. Farm tours demonstrated how different producers approach such things as season extension, choosing what to grow, how much to plant, when to plant.
Newspaper articles and radio spots were prime outlets used for advertisment during the market season. Word of mouth was a great advertisment for the market.
Outreach included special populations. Varieties of vegetables favored by ethnic groups were offered for sale. Schools were provided booth space for plants locally grown by students, and farmers were accepted WIC coupons. The Carroll County Master Gardeners were provided a weekly booth to share and educate consumers on gardening and lawn needs.
Twenty eight farmers participated in the Cotton Mill Market during the 2002 growing season generating more than $150,000 in added value to their agricultural production. The agricultural product diversity enhanced profitablility for the entire market as well as attracted a number of diverse consumers.
Thirty-two farmers participated in the 2003 Cotton Mill Market season generating $200,000 to the producer even though the growing season was hampered by the unseasonal weather. A wide assortment of fresh fruits/vegetables cut flowers, grass finished beef, honey, jams/jellies, perennial/annual plants, eggs, herbs, fresh breads, baked goods, artisan items, and fair-trade, shade-grown coffees.
The Cotton Mill Farmers Market contributions to the community enhanced the profitability to the local farmer by enabling the farmer to stay on the farm, and it created a more profitable living for the farmer.
The farmers of the market contributed to the local environment by practicing sustainable methods of farming and by producing quality products to the consumer.
The local economy was enhanced by the market because the money spent went directly to the farmer and remained in the community.
The social contributions created by the farmers market brought the farmer to the consumer and created a gathering and social environment to the community. Consumers and farmers enjoyed fellowship and coffee on Saturday mornings, which created a new bond of friendship that didn’t exist before the market started.
There are no future recommendations.