The Comer Farmers’ Market has experienced the most successful season during May-December 2007. We are delighted to have established a wonderful community amenity. Karen Newcomb stepped on board at the beginning of 2007 season and has really been great at recruiting more vendors and working closely with other community groups. We now have more involvement from other successful groups in our area including Master Gardner’s and students from the University of Georgia interested in plants, agriculture and organic farming.
We did not utilize our grant funds in their entirety due to the changes in our physical location (lack of desire in capital investment by property owner/low farmer participation), low community interest and our lagging seasons (2004-6). It has taken great persistence and belief in a valid project to come as far as we have. The 2007 season has renewed our vision. We look forward to even more success in the future.
In reflection, these projects require a great deal of commitment and community involvement and many times they take a while to catch on. We are getting better and greatly appreciate SARE for having funded our project in the early stages. I do wish we had had more involvement in the 2004-2006 seasons to achieve our fullest potential.
Organizers of the Market are excited by the community’s response and are eager to take advantage of the momentum created in the last two years. What is needed to expand and enhance the success of the Farmers’ Market is seed money that will be used to:
support activities that will connect local growers with the community through increased education and promotion,
create promotional materials that can be used to recruit additional growers and other vendors,
support training programs that will educate both growers and consumers, and
provide opportunities for existing organizations with overlapping goals to work together productively.
These activities will build on the current success of the Farmers’ Market by drawing even more participants and vendors during Market hours. The community will begin to truly take ownership of the Market and to expand use of the building. In addition, through classroom presentations, presentations to local civic groups, informational materials and training seminars, the community will become better educated about the agricultural and natural resources in the Broad River Watershed.
To expand and enhance the current Comer Farmers’ Market and create more community awareness, the following activities will be funded:
1. The Market Manager will gather and develop informational materials to make available to civic groups and in classrooms, explaining the purpose of the Market and the benefits of supporting local growers. Other materials will be developed on seasonal eating and the health benefits of fresh produce.
2. More and better signage will be purchased and installed to make the Market more easily accessible.
3. The Market Manager, working with the Downtown Development Association and the Broad River Watershed Association, will develop a Powerpoint presentation to be used with local civic groups, in area classrooms, with local government groups, and to recruit additional vendors and growers.
4. Training programs will be offered to local growers. For example, a new restaurant that is currently under construction near the Market will contain a certified commercial kitchen that the owner will make available to certified growers and vendors who would like to sell value-added products. Vendors will need Serv-Safe training in order to be certified to produce and sell such products. Other training programs that can be offered include training to allow vendors to receive WIC vouchers and training on year-round growing.
5. Training seminars will also be offered to the public in seasonal eating and whole foods cooking.
6. Meetings will be organized to bring together local business leaders, legislators, members of the Downtown Development Association, and members of the Broad River Watershed Association in order to formulate a strategic plan for the next five years to build on the success of the Market.
7. Meetings will also be organized to plan activities that will link downtown businesses with the Market, including a concert series with local musicians, gallery shows and a community festival.
A preliminary timeline for these activities follows:
January – March 2004 Promotional and educational materials are developed and printed. Signage for the Market is purchased and installed.
March – Sept. 2004 Advertising is done for the third season; presentations are made to school and civic groups; additional vendors are recruited.
June 5, 2004 Comer Farmers’ Market opens.
Sept. – Dec. 2004 Presentations are made to area groups and schools. Meetings and discussions take place with Downtown Development Association, Chamber of Commerce, Broad River Watershed Association to discuss strategic plan.
Jan. – May 2005 Serv-Safe training is offered; seminars are offered through the county extension agency; plans are made for Spring Concert Series and other linking activities with local businesses like gallery showings and a community festival.
June 2005 Comer Farmers’ Market opens.
Summer and Fall 2005 Ongoing activities are planned to connect downtown businesses and to recruit additional community volunteers and vendors.
Primarily, the $10,000 proposed budget will be used for part-time salaries, some operational costs, and meeting and materials purchases. The proposed budget breaks down over a two-year period in this manner:
Part-time Market Manager $3000
Part-time Grant Manager $1000
The Market Manager will take primary responsibility for developing educational and promotional materials, for recruiting vendors and for making presentations. The Grant Manager will oversee all other grant activities, including organizing regular volunteer meetings, strategic planning meetings and joint association meetings.
These funds will be used for printing of brochures, fliers and other informational handouts. In addition, signage will be purchased, and copies of the Powerpoint presentation will be made and distributed.
These funds will be used to pay costs for Serv-Safe training and other seminars.
These funds will pay any incidental costs for meeting expenses, including refreshments as needed for working lunches or training programs.
“Farmers Market Stimulates Regional Economic Development, Study Shows,” September 24, 1999, www.loyno.edu/newsandcalendars/loyolatoday.
Floyd, Allison, “Comer’s Downtown Experiencing Growth,” Athens Banner Herald, September 1, 2003, www.athensnewspapers.com.
“Madison County,” Georgia Snapshots and Community Profiles, Geogia Department of Community Affairs, www.dca.state.ga.us.
McClaskey, Tabatha, “Farmers Market Now Open,” The Comer News, June 6, 2002. p. 1.