Homegrown

Revitalized Cartersville Downtown Farmers Market yields big returns

By MARIE NESMITH
Posted 7/7/19

Enjoying the buzz surrounding this year’s offering, Travis Loudermilk of Loudermilk Hobby Farm is delighted to take part in the revitalized Cartersville Downtown Farmers Market. The Cartersville …

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Homegrown

Revitalized Cartersville Downtown Farmers Market yields big returns

Posted

Enjoying the buzz surrounding this year’s offering, Travis Loudermilk of Loudermilk Hobby Farm is delighted to take part in the revitalized Cartersville Downtown Farmers Market. The Cartersville resident is seeing a boost in shoppers since the seasonal staple launched June 1.

“We are thrilled with the recent changes to the market,” said Loudermilk, who owns Loudermilk Hobby Farm with his wife, Sarah. “Regina Shaw is doing a great job as the market manager, especially in increasing awareness about the farmers market in the community. We're seeing a tremendous increase in foot traffic this year on a regular basis, and we’re meeting a new group of customers who are just coming to know about the market.

“Regina has also done a great job recruiting local farmers and other produce vendors who may not have sold at our local market before or were going to other nearby markets. We have live music, breakfast from local restaurants or food trucks, our coffee, and activities for the kids every week.”

Formed in 2014, Loudermilk Hobby Farm features 20 organically-fed laying hens and beehives that are frequently transported to different farmers’ and gardeners’ properties. Noting their raw, unfiltered wildflower honey is Loudermilk Hobby Farm’s most popular item at the farmers market, his operation also specializes in organic, pasture-raised eggs and fresh baked goods made with organic, whole grain wheat grinded by the Loudermilks.

“We called our business a ‘hobby farm’ because that's exactly what it is, a wonderful hobby that has blossomed into a business,” Loudermilk said. “We have always had an interest in health and nutrition and it quickly became evident to us as newlyweds cooking and shopping for ourselves that the best products and ingredients are often produced locally and delivered to the consumer with great care.

“To that end, Loudermilk Hobby Farm began as a dream we had to own hens and produce our own eggs while living in a one-bedroom apartment. We spent hours researching coops, and different breeds of chickens and dreaming of our ideal home. We were able to make our dream a reality in 2014 when we purchased our first house. We immediately went to work building a small coop and put a few chickens in it.”

Started in the early 1980s, the Cartersville Downtown Farmers Market 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.

This year, the downtown fixture is operating through Sept. 28 every Saturday, 7 a.m. to noon, at Founder’s Oak parking lot on North Public Square.

“We love the relationships we have built through our business; we have many friends at the Cartersville Farmers Market who we may not have met otherwise,” said Loudermilk, adding this is the third year serving as vendors. “Cartersville is a thriving community but has maintained that small-town feel that we have grown to love. We're selling to our friends and neighbors each week, and it feels like a collective success.

“Our children are also a big part of this endeavor; they sell with us at the market, help us make honey deliveries and bake with Sarah on Fridays for the market,” he said, referring to Emma, 5; Lydia, 3; and Liam, 6 months. “We love the opportunity this provides to teach our children about running a business, and how hard work can turn aspirations into a reality. Our business has also helped them to understand what it takes to produce truly good food.”

As Loudermilk reported, the market is being overseen by Regina Shaw. The part-time coordinator’s position is funded jointly by the city of Cartersville, Bartow County government and the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“I have always loved farmers markets and the role they play in providing an array of benefits to their community,” Shaw said. “They have the ability to preserve land by keeping farmers in their community, return money to the local economy, provide access to locally-sourced agriculture products, benefit the environment by food traveling fewer miles to the consumer and create community around food.

“As a customer, I have always tried to support the Cartersville Farmers Market but felt a bit confused when I didn’t see many locally-sourced agriculture items there. I knew that we had plenty of producers in this area and I also knew there were plenty of customers who wanted to purchase these items, so when I found out about this new job position, I decided that I should try to help resolve the problem instead of complaining or giving my money to other farmers markets outside of our community.”

In its second month, the market is comprised of more than 40 vendors who offer seasonal produce, and other items, such as cut flowers, baked goods, dog treats, jams and jellies, eggs, and pasture-raised pork and beef.

“I think the market kind of lost its way for a while, as there was no paid staff to effectively connect the farmers with the customers,” Shaw said. “I think that the community missed that experience and are excited to see the revitalization.

“Customers are absolutely loving the additional produce this year. Our produce vendors have mostly been selling out [by] 10:30am. At this point, our demand is higher than our supply, but we know that more produce is about to pour in so it should help.”

Looking forward to returning to the Cartersville Downtown Farmers Market, Adairsville resident Michelle Henson’s first visit turned into a fruitful experience June 29.

“We went to the market with no particular items in mind,” Henson said, also referring to her 7-year-old daughter, Kinsley. “We ended up getting a pound cake, two types of dog biscuits, chocolate-covered Rice Krispy treats and some tomatoes. We were very pleased with all our purchases.

“This was our first time at the market, and we will definitely be back. … We come to the downtown area a few times a month. I think that locally-grown produce — or any product really — always taste better than anything you can get at a store. It’s a great place to be able to support your local farmers and buy healthy food for your family at the same time, and those things are really important to me.”

To further promote the market and enhance the public’s shopping experience, Shaw continues to provide a snapshot of what the next offering will entail on social media.

“One of the challenges that the market has encountered is customers being disappointed when they don’t find the produce that they expected at the market,” she said. “Since the majority of our produce is locally grown, our offerings are dependent on our area’s growing seasons.

“To help manage expectations, I have started posting a list of what our vendors plan to sell for the upcoming weekend on Facebook and Instagram each week. I do plan to create an alternative communication method soon, since many aren’t on social media, but for now, our customers seem to appreciate the information.”

For the owners of Southern Moon Farm, this addition is a welcome feature. Previously serving as vendors at the Cartersville Downtown Farmers Market with other businesses, Trenton Steele and Charlotte Frady established Southern Moon Farm in 2019. Their Farmville operation features an array of sunflowers, zinnias, dahlias and sweet Sungold cherry tomatoes.

“Year-to-date, 2019 has been the most profitable season at the Cartersville Farmers Market in the history of both Southern Sown and Gypsy Moon since beginning in 2015,” the Southern Moon Farm owners told The Daily Tribune News, noting the “Instagram account is by far the best improvement of the market this year — allowing vendors to tag, share and support the market on a public social platform rather than relying on the tiny yard signs randomly placed around town.” 

With some vendors experiencing record sales, Shaw is excited the revamped Cartersville Downtown Farmers Market is yielding high marks from sellers and shoppers.

“My favorite moments were all on the opening market day,” she said. “First was when one of our farmers, who has been dedicated to the market for years, told me that she made more on that day than she had made the entire previous summer. I remember her apathy at the beginning of market day and to see her enthusiasm at the end was priceless.

“The second was a new vendor who was a bit hesitant to give our market a try, but told me that he hit a sales record on his first day with us. He couldn’t stop smiling. Many of our vendors rely on their sales as income, so it is very rewarding when I see them sell a lot. My final favorite moment so far was seeing all of my friends, family and community members filling up the market to provide support on opening day.” 

For more information about the Cartersville Downtown Farmer’s Market, visit its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/CartersvilleFarmersMarket.

“I want to thank everyone in this community 

for the support they have provided for the market,” Shaw said. “I am aware of the things that need to be changed and I do have long-term goals, I just have to remind myself that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

“I appreciate the positive vibes and encourage everyone to keep coming to the market. It’s getting better every single week!”