If We Grow It….. Will They Come?

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Monroe County Farmer’s Market Proposed

People who would like to see a good old-fashioned farmer’s market should not give up hope by any means.

An interest meeting for such a market was held Tuesday at the Madisonville Farm Bureau building.

Hosting were Stacy and Kara Warwick of Warwick Environmental Engineering. However, Monroe County UT Ag Extension Agent Jonathan Rhea also attended and provided useful information.

“You have to get the growers there,” Rhea said to the 23 persons present.  “You have to get the buyers there.”

A draft of a plan was circulated among the attendees. Among the items it stated were that a participant must produce at least 50 percent of what he or she will sell in order to be eligible to participate.

“We don’t have a preference (and) we don’t have a budget,” Mrs. Warwick said.

“Cheese, milk, honey, jams – to us, that’s what makes a farmer’s market,” Mr. Warwick said.

Rhea gave a few pointers, such as, “You’re not supposed to put eggs in a (known retailer)’s carton.”

Also, he said, “if you sell by the pound, the scales have to be certified by the state.

“There’s a trend (taking place),” he added. “People are wanting to know where their food comes from.

How well resale would work was discussed several minutes. “You can’t have a market without resale,” one person said.

Rhea suggested a committee for the market, and it was decided everyone who was at the  meeting could be a possible committee member.

The location was then discussed. Regarding Sweetwater, Mrs. Warwick said a lot not far from the downtown gazebo could be used.  As for Madisonville, she said the 4-H pavilion by the convenience center near Kefauver Park might be a good idea.

The time to have the market was also discussed.

“We’re looking forward to a place where you could really sell six days a week,” one person said.

“I’ve lived here all my life,” one person said. “If you have it in Madisonville, no one in Sweetwater will come, and vice versa.”

However, after further discussion, Mrs. Warwick selling in Sweetwater on Saturday and selling on Madisonville on Friday might work.

Fees were discussed. “I don’t want to keep up with what I sell,” said one woman, regarding the possibility of paying a percentage as opposed to a flat fee.

“Does everyone understand that advertising and fees are closely tied?” said one person.

“Does everyone understand that you’re going to have to have your own tent and table?” Mr. Warwick said.

Rhea mentioned that liability should be spelled out on the application that each participant will have to fill out.

The Warwicks, who farm about three acres near Hiwassee College, also mentioned they plan to attend a farmer’s market boot camp in Knoxville on March 4.  One is also scheduled for April 4 at Athens Regional Park in Athens.

Rhea recommended that Tennessee Department of Agriculture officials come to a meeting regarding the market.  Another meeting was scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, February 19, in the same location.

Anyone interested in assisting with the farmer’s market or wanting more information should contact the Warwicks at their web site wee@hughes.net.

Asked if the meeting was a good start, Rhea said, “Absolutely. Fabulous. We’re off with a bang.”

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