Overseen by the Cartersville Downtown Development Authority and the Bartow County Extension Office, the market will operate Wednesdays, 5 to 8 p.m., and Saturdays, 7 a.m. to noon, from June 4 to Sept. 27 at Founders Oak Parking Lot at 10 N. Public Square.
“I do believe many years ago that there was also a fee structure involved, but before I came on board it was more or less a free for all, just anyone who wanted to set up and sell their produce or flowers or locally made items were welcome to do so,” Cartersville DDA Manager Tara Currier said. “... [The fee structure was implemented] to help pay for advertising.
“So we got a new banner. We did a new logo last year ... [and placed signs] along Main Street letting folks know [that] the Farmer’s Market [was] going on every Saturday. So [it is] a very minimal fee to the farmers — $20 for an entire season of two days a week, June through September, to set up. Certainly that’s something that they can recoup very quickly, but it just allows us to offset some of the expenses incurred with marketing and promoting the event to the public.”
Along with purchasing a season permit for $20, monthly and daily/weekly permits can be obtained for $10 and $5, respectively. Links to the permit application are posted on the websites of the Cartersville DDA and Bartow County Extension Office — www.downtowncartersville.org and www.caes.uga.edu/extension/bartow/.
“The Cartersville Farmer’s Market was started in the early 1980s by the late Walter Culverhouse, who was a Bartow County Extension Agent,” Bartow County Extension Coordinator Paul Pugliese said. “The downtown farmer’s market’s original purpose was having a venue for local farmers to sell excess produce.
“... Unfortunately, we have fewer farmers that grow local fruits and vegetables in Bartow County today. Although agriculture is still a $92 million ... industry in Bartow County, most of the agricultural products produced by local farmers are raw commodities, such as cotton, soybeans, poultry and beef, that are not suitable for a farmer’s market venue. Therefore, it is necessary to expand the market to other value-added items, such as cut flowers, baked goods and local crafts to draw in customers. Also, having other locally made products keeps the market active during times of the year when our local crops are limited by the growing season or challenging weather patterns, such as drought and excess rain.”
He continued, “Personally, I would like to encourage and see more locally grown food/fiber products offered through the downtown farmer’s market and local businesses. With a growing population in Bartow County, we have the potential for a thriving downtown farmer’s market and a variety of agricultural and nature-based tourism activities to bring people into our community and the downtown Cartersville area. However, to facilitate this in our community, we must have a committed effort to invest in this through local businesses, city and county government, the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention & Visitors Bureau. Part of this concerted effort should be to educate consumers about healthy lifestyles through outdoor recreation activities and food choices that support our local economy and protect our agricultural resources. This is why our office partnered with the DDA two years ago to help promote and grow the Cartersville Farmer’s Market.”
In addition to locally grown produce, vendors may sell a variety of items, including canned goods, jellies, baked goods, fresh cut flowers, herbs, plants and crafts.
According to the permit application, the Cartersville Farmer’s Market “requires vendors to be in compliance with all applicable State and Federal regulations regarding products sold. Licenses/certifications are required for the sale of regulated products such as live plants, eggs, meat products, dairy products, products sold as ‘organic,’ and low acid foods (canned vegetables, pickles, salsas, etc.)
“For questions regarding licenses/certifications to sell regulated products in Georgia, contact the Georgia Department of Agriculture at 404-656-3627. Vendors who want to sell these regulated items are required to submit a copy of their licenses/certifications with the Farmer’s Market application. These products cannot be legally sold in the State of Georgia without the proper certifications.”
As of Wednesday, 39 season permits had been purchased. With the market’s vending space consisting of 49 total spots, there is the possibility of expanding the venue to include a portion of the Cartersville City Hall parking lot.
“[Feedback from last year] was very positive,” Currier said. “Again, with the permitting process, the vendors have assigned spaces. A lot of these farmers have been coming down here and selling their produce for decades. So they kind of have their own set area and, of course, as farming [becomes] more prevalent in our community and around the country for that matter and people wanting to produce more of their own items that they’re able to sell, we wanted to be sure that we were fair to those that have been here for so long, that they were able to get their spot, if you will.
“So through the permitting process, you are guaranteed a specific location. We did actually contact all of the 2013 farmers in February. We sent a letter out. It was only those who participated last year that were able to actually get their permits before it was opened up to the public. So we did have over 20 of last year’s vendors that actually came in and went ahead and reserved their same spot, so they’d be guaranteed to be able to keep that. Then we actually opened it up to the general public beginning in March.”
Along with visiting the organizations’ websites, more information about the Cartersville Farmer’s Market can be obtained by calling the Cartersville DDA at 770-607-3480 or Bartow County Extension Office at 770-387-5142.