(Northeast State professor Dr. Gary Grau welcomes workforce professionals, small business owners, and entrepreneurial thinkers from around the region to meet and interact with his business students during the semester.)
Think globally, but eat locally. An area farmer’s market gives consumers the option to do just that by purchasing food online from the farmer down the road.
But what’s the business appeal for a farmer’s market? More than meets the plate.
“It is a much different quality of product,” said Karen Childress, coordinator of the Jonesborough Farmer’s Market and Online Market. “People are out there buying locally grown (produce) because they care about what they put in their bodies.”
Childress visited Dr. Gary Grau’s small business management class this week as guest speaker to discuss with students the successful cooperative market and its social significance.
The Jonesborough Farmer’s Market offers locally grown vegetables and produce year round thanks to the online market component. The first market start-up happened in the spring of 2007 in the parking lot of the Jonesborough Visitors Center. Childress said the Johnson City and Abingdon farmer’s markets were major influences on developing the Jonesborough site.
The first year was slow going for producers, she said. The second year brought more traffic – and regular buyers – intrigued with produce items locally grown by their neighbors. Today, the seasonal market operates from 8 a.m. to noon May to October off Main Street in Courthouse Square in downtown Jonesborough. The market becomes an event with live music and a festival feel for vendors and customers alike, said Childress.
The Online Farmer’s Market started up in 2010 to provide a marketplace for products available during the fall and winter seasons. The online market operates between November and April. The online version ends once the weekly outdoor Saturday market kicks up in spring. The online market’s February offerings included eggs from free-range chicken eggs, beef and pork, chicken, and lamb cuts to pet treats and goat cheese.
Childress explained that each week that the online market is open, vendors post their items to the “Market” section of the website. From Sunday at 2 p.m. to Tuesday at 11 a.m., customers can browse that week’s products and place their online order. All orders are delivered to the Farmers Market site in Jonesborough for payment and pick-up on Wednesdays from 5:30-5:45 p.m.
“Customers place their order and pick it,” she said. “Growers can check their orders and get a look at what they are selling and which customers are buying.”
Cash, check, debit/credit/EBT cards are allow acceptable pay pals at the market. The Farmer’s Market operates as a volunteer organized fair for the direct sale of farm raised produce and homemade products. Childress also noted the market was a “producer only” market of local growers with no resale of items allowed.
Beyond the festival atmosphere, the market reconnected people through food and community. No small achievement in a modern world of distant and impersonal communications.
“You have the opportunity to talk to the person who grew your food,” she said, “which is the next best thing to growing it yourself.”