Oconee Farmers Market will launch its 12th season on April 4.
Vendors will assemble at 8 a.m. in front of the Courthouse in Watkinsville, selling early season produce, eggs, meats, honey, jams, and farm-related handicrafts, such as woolen products.
Red Oak Southern String Band, a market favorite, will perform at the opening, as it has in the past. The Watkinsville band has committed to be at six markets as the season progresses.
Market vendors, who met on Feb. 26 at the Oconee County Library in Watkinville, agreed to suspend the Tuesday market, launched two years ago at First Christian Church in Watkinsville.
Instead, vendors will explore other venues for a mid-week market.
Market Manager Cindy Pritchard told the Board of Directors of the Market at its meeting on Feb. 9 at the Chamber of Commerce in Watkinsville that the number of vendors participating in the Tuesday market had declined in is second year.
During its first season, the Tuesday market had averaged just fewer than 16 vendors, while that figure had dropped to seven last year.
Pritchard told that Board that the Tuesday market had been launched to provide vendors with an outlet for their produce as the season progressed and to respond to customer demand. Vendors have an increasing number of outlets now, she said, with a number selling directly to customers.
Vendor participation in the Saturday market has remained strong.
Across the 35 Saturdays in 2014, an average of 25 vendors set up stalls at the market. A year earlier that figure had been 32.
The Market started on the lawn of Eagle Tavern across from the Courthouse in 2004 and moved behind the tavern as vendor and customer demand grew. The market moved to its present location in front of the Courthouse in 2012.
The increased visibility has helped the market grow.
On opening day last year, 29 vendors offered eggs, goat milk, pies, cakes, meats, boiled peanuts, herbs, landscape plants, and fresh greens.
Blueberries, strawberries, figs and peaches all make their way to the vendor stands.
Lettuces and other greens come early. Tomatoes, squash, eggplant, carrots and turnips show up later.
Vendors have beef, chicken, pork and lamb pretty much throughout the year.
The Market is a non-profit, with vendors paying 5 percent of their sales to support advertising and other Market activities.
Manager Pritchard handles day-to-day activities and such things as vendor location.
The Board of Directors is made up of volunteers. I am a customer representative on the Board.
The Market also has a fundraising dinner, called Fields of Promise, with proceeds going to support students in the county interested in agriculture.
That event will be held Aug. 15 at the Thomas Cotton Gin on SR 15 south of Watkinsville.