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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Fulton County Farmer's Market in planning stages

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The effort to establish a farmer's market in Fulton County took a big step forward on Monday, March 6, when a committee was formed to write the rules of operation that farmer's market participants would follow.

"Our first meeting showed there is an interest in establishing a farmer's market," said County Extension Agent Brad Runsick, as the March 6 meeting began. "The next step is putting together a board with a chairman to write by-laws."

On Feb. 22, about 35 people attended a meeting to discusss the idea of opening a farmer's market in Fulton County.

About 25 people returned for the March 6 follow-up meeting, a good sign people are willing to get involved in the planning and operation of a market.

"A lot of us want this in the community." Kathy Goodwin said. "Most of us are busy and don't have a lot of extra time, so the more who volunteer to help, the better the chances of making this happen."

Mike Yates, a minister who attended the first meeting, said the description he heard of what is involved in starting and running a farmer's market "is a lot to swallow," when you get into where a market would be located, when it would operate and what products would be sold.

But Runsick showed the crowd a farmer's market can be run with a minimum of rules and red tape, by reading the by-laws that govern the Melbourne Farmer's Market.

The Melbourne market by-laws establish a board to run the market, offer membership to growers and crafters who pay a $10 fee per family, and establishes days of operation from May 1 to Nov. 1.

The by-laws state space to set up at the market is on a first come-first served basis, only handmade craft items can be sold, vendors who buy and re-sell wholesale produce must collect sales tax and vendors must comply with state health department rules. The position of Market Master is created, a person who oversees the market's operation and resolves disputes.

Beverly Reeves of Glencoe pointed out one problem with Melbourne's by-laws.

"They say members are farmers and crafters, and I'm neither. I'm a consumer," Reeves said. "We need consumers involved in the organization. Their ideas are important because they will make or break it (the market)."

Other members of the audience agreed and, after the sign-up sheet went around the room, 10 people had signed up for the committee which will write Fulton County by-laws.

Reeves volunteered to lead the group, since she has had previous experience writing by-laws for an extension homemakers group.

A Monday, March 26 meeting was scheduled to present a draft of the by-laws for feedback. The meeting will be held at noon at the Hickinbotham-Miller building.

"That gives three weeks for the 10 of us to work on by-laws," said Reeves, who added the first draft will just be a starting point for discussion. "Consumers will look at it differently than farmers, and farmers will look at it differently than crafters."

Before the meeting ended, each member in the room was asked to comment on what was most important to them about a farmer's market.

"I want one set location where we can bring farmers and consumers together," said Suzanne Hartrick, a Master Gardner. "I want to get the idea off the ground and see if it is viable to the community."

Mike Yates said, "I am really excited about getting healthy and fresh vegetables. It will be a real fun thing to bring your kids to. It's about community."

"I can't believe there isn't one here already," said Rachel Jeter. "The Amish and the sellers on the square do a good job (of selling produce), but a market is needed. It is a good way to educate about healthy eating, and it will save time. It is important to have a market on Saturday to help those who work during the week."

Vernon Borntrager, an Amish resident who operates a produce stand, said it was important to allow produce that was not locally grown to be sold.

Borntrager said, in addition to local produce, his customers like peaches he brings in from Missouri, and he is not allowed to sell them at the West Plains Farmer's Market, which has a "local produce only" policy.

A number of people spoke about the importance of choosing a good location for the farmer's market -- an easy to reach, visible place in the community with plenty of parking and shade, if possible.

Becky Harber spoke in favor of holding the market on the square. "We need to bring people to the square, to help local merchants," she said.

Others questioned whether the square would be a safe location for a farmer's market, because vendors would set up on public streets, with passing cars and trucks creating a safety hazard for fair visitors.

While there are still many questions to be answered and decisions to be made, the idea of a Fulton County Farmer's Market is alive.

Supporters expressed optimism a market can be up and running by summer.

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