Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Oconee Farmers Market to Launch New Season in Front of Courthouse

Lexi Expands Product Line

Oconee Farmers Market will launch its ninth season on April 14 at a new venue–in the parking area in front of the courthouse in downtown Watkinsville.

The Board of Directors of the Market made the move to increase exposure for the market and its vendors.

“We really feel that the visibility will make a dramatic difference for us,” Market President and Market Manager Cindy Pritchard said when I talked to her on Saturday.

Board member Eric Pope and Pritchard worked out details with the county to move the market to the more prominent space.

Lexi with Bag, Shirt

Vendors will set up stalls in two rows in front of the courthouse and down the side street to the Board of Elections and Registration office, depending on demand. The market will open at 8 a.m. and run until 1 p.m. each Saturday until late fall.

The market began operation in 2004 in the front yard of the Eagle Tavern across from the Courthouse and moved to the rear of the Tavern in 2009 to allow for more vendors.

Twenty-nine vendors participated in the market across the season last year, which ended the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The number of vendors on a given Saturday varied based on the growing season.

Vendors pay to the market 5 percent of their gross sales or a seasonal fee of $250 to cover market costs. The market does not receive any county funds but has been granted free use of the space at the Tavern and will be given free use of the space in front of the courthouse.

Vendors Attended March 1 Meeting

Fifteen vendors attended the annual market meeting, held March 1 at the Oconee County Library in Watkinsville, according to Pritchard.

At that meeting, Pritchard discussed promotional plans for the market for the upcoming year, which includes printing and distribution of T-shirts and shopping bags bearing a new market logo.

Big Frog on Epps Bridge Parkway designed the logo, shirts and bags and is subsidizing the printing of the shirts and bags.

The shirts and shopping bags will be given to those who make a donation to the market.

I was not able to attend the meeting on March 1 but did review the agenda with Pritchard.

Last year, the responsibility of market manager was passed among the Board members. Pritchard agreed to take over that responsibility this year to give the market more consistent leadership.

Other Board members are Russ Page and Nancy Thompson. I serve as the customer representative on the Board.

The Red Oak Southern String Band of Watkinsville will perform at the market opening on April 14.

Lexi Pritchard, 7, will be returning to the market for her fourth season.

In her early years as a vendor, Lexi sold cut flowers, but last year she expanded her offerings to include lemonade and birdhouses. When the weather was cold, she added hot chocolate.

Lexi told me when I visited with her and her mother on Saturday that she is expanding her product line.

This year, she’ll also have squirrel feeders. She confirmed that she really did mean squirrel feeders, not bird feeders.

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