Monday, April 29, 2013

Oconee County Farmers Market To Launch Weekday Markets May 14

Fresh Produce For Dinner

Oconee Farmers Market will begin operating 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays on the grounds of Watkinsville First Christian Church in downtown Watkinsville starting on May 14.

Market Manager Cindy Pritchard said the expanded market is in response to customer requests and to help vendors during the peak part of the growing season.

Market Manager Pritchard

“As we have gotten bigger, the vendors are growing more things and also need to move the produce midweek,” she said.

Pritchard said the Tuesday market, at the corner of Simonton Bridge Road and Main Street, may draw new customers who then also will come to the market at Saturdays.

The Saturday market, now in its 10th year, will continue to operate from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the courthouse just down the street from the Tuesday evening market, according to Pritchard.

Less Lingering Expected

Pritchard said the Tuesday evening market will be “a little more low key” than the Saturday market.

No music is planned, and “we don’t think there will be as much lingering as we have on Saturday,” she said.

Pritchard said she expects people will see the market and stop on their way home from work to pick up some fresh produce for dinner.

The plans are to keep the Tuesday evening market open until whenever in August the volume of fresh produce begins to decline with the season.

Easy Parking

Vendors will be set up in the grass between parking lots at the church, leaving plenty of space for customers’ cars, according to Pritchard.

One of those parking lots is accessible from Main Street, and the other opens on to Simonton Bridge Road. The official address of the Church is 4 N. Main Street.

Pritchard, who is a member of Watkinsville First Christian, said the church is donating the space.

The church has been reaching out to the community, she said, and “got on board” with the plans for the Tuesday market.

Expanding Market

On opening day on April 6, the Saturday market had 33 vendors, compared with 10 on opening day a year ago.

The Saturday market set a record with 38 vendors April 20, the third week it was open this year. At the peak of the season last year, 36 vendors had set up stalls in front of the courthouse.

Thirty-two vendors were at the market on Saturday, and 14 of those have committed to the Tuesday market, Pritchard said.

The Farmers Market moved to the front of the courthouse last year from the rear of the Eagle Tavern, and, according to Pritchard, the move created increased visibility and success for the market.

The Tuesday market is simply a natural expansion, she said. “I think it is going to be another niche for us.”

The courthouse remains open until 5 p.m. on weekdays and often has evening meetings, Pritchard said, making it unavailable for the Tuesday market.

Vendors Pay Fee

The Oconee Farmers Market is a volunteer, not-for-profit organization, with vendors paying 5 percent of their sales to cover costs.

As an alternative, vendors can pay a one-season fee of $50 to participate in the Tuesday evening market, Pritchard said.

The market is governed by a six-member Board of Directors, headed by Pritchard. I am a customer representative on that Board.

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