Cartersville Farmer’s Market revamping operations

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Looking to develop a thriving community outreach, organizers of the Cartersville Farmer’s Market are revamping this year’s operations.

“We have made some changes,” said Lillie Read, director of the Cartersville Downtown Development Authority, which currently oversees the market. “Some of the feedback we’ve gotten from our farmers is that we don’t have a ton of folks doing cold weather growing and seeding with the hoop houses … so a lot of folks seemed preferential to us starting in June rather than in May.

“So we’re starting in June. We’re running through September, because in October we were already — as part of our ongoing events cycle — had two out of the four or five weeks booked for other events. So we went ahead and lopped it off at the end of September.”

From June 1 through Sept. 28, the Cartersville Farmer’s Market will operate every Saturday, 7 a.m. to noon, at Founder’s Oak parking lot on North Public Square. With sweltering temperatures leading to dwindling vendors, the market no longer will be presented Wednesday evenings. 

Started in the early 1980s, the seasonal offering was spearheaded by the late Bartow County Extension Agent Walter Culverhouse to help local farmers sell their excess produce. Through the years, the market has evolved in scope, now offering additional items for purchase.

To help the market grow and thrive, the operation is in the process of hiring a part-time coordinator. The position will be funded jointly by the city of Cartersville, Bartow County government and the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Our organizations recognized a need to have a paid employee dedicated to overseeing the farmer's market operation,” Bartow County Extension Coordinator Paul Pugliese said. “There are potentially a number of grants opportunities that we could use to grow the existing market and perhaps expand to a mobile fresh market in the future.

“There are also potential grant opportunities to match SNAP/EBT dollars spent by consumers at the market. However, we need a market coordinator to seek out these grants and manage them accordingly. Our primary goal is to improve health outcomes in Bartow County by increasing access to fresh produce and local foods. This process starts with revitalizing the Cartersville Farmer’s Market, increasing community awareness and supporting community wellness initiatives.”

Once hired, the market coordinator will be based at the County Extension office and work hand-in-hand with the Cartersville DDA’s staff.

“The market structure will not change very much this first season, at least until we get the new coordinator acclimated,” Pugliese said. “The coordinator will be responsible for leading a market advisory board made up of vendors and other stakeholders. It's important that we have support and buy-in from our market vendors with any changes that might need to occur in the future.     

“We are very excited about this new partnership and expanding the potential of our local farmers market. With a growing population in Bartow County, we have the potential for a thriving downtown farmer’s market. Part of this concerted effort will be to educate consumers about healthy lifestyles and food choices that support our local farms. There are numerous economic, environmental and social benefits of investing in these areas for the future of Bartow County.”

Noting the new position will be “crucial” in the market’s revitalization, Alexis Roberts is looking forward to the community outreach effort expanding its reach.

“The Bartow County health coalition was created to improve the health of Bartow families, so they can prosper and thrive,” said Roberts, family and consumer sciences agent for the Bartow County Cooperative Extension Office. “In partnership with the DDA, we have been meeting with community members and stakeholders, gathering information to provide direction and to understand the needs of Bartow County. Health coalitions are used across the country as health interventions. A collaborative effort in health initiatives is key to creating monumental changes in our county.

“Hiring the market coordinator serves as the first effort in bringing the coalition to life. One of the main objectives of creating this coordinator position is to improve health outcomes focusing on lifestyle and diet. Health experts suggest that one method to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables is to increase access to fresh produce. The market coordinator will be crucial in revitalizing the market, so that it will have more produce vendors and increase community wellness programs.”

According to the 2019 Cartersville Farmer's Market Guidelines and Rules, this year’s market will feature produce grown locally from Bartow, Pickens, Cherokee, Cobb, Paulding, Polk or Floyd counties. Other locally grown or raised items that will be sold include fresh cut flowers, honey, eggs and meat. Baked goods, canned goods and jellies, and handmade crafts also will be accepted.

After purchasing a $35 permit, each vendor will secure parking at the market on a first come, first served basis. Along with their payment, vendors need to turn in their permit application to the Cartersville DDA, 1 Friendship Plaza, at least two days before taking part in the market.

“In the last 10 days, we’ve had about 14 people sign up,” Read said. “We always open our applications in April and generally between April and May we get the bulk of our applicants. Usually it’s about 60 to 65 vendors, but some come through the year because we don’t have attendance requirements at our market.”

For more information about obtaining a Cartersville Farmer’s Market application, prospective vendors need to call the Cartersville DDA at 770-607-3480 or visit https://downtowncartersville.org or www.facebook.com/CartersvilleFarmersMarket.