By: Kathryn Engle
When I was first beginning the Grow Appalachia program in Knox County, Kentucky, earlier this year, I knew that a farmers’ market was something I was interested in exploring. I found out there was no firmly established market in the county and that attempts at starting one in the past had not been very successful. One of the first contacts I had made when starting the project was our local cooperative extension agent. I casually mentioned starting a farmers’ market in the county and soon heard of the obstacles involved and past difficulties. A farmers’ market was something I kept in the back of my mind as I made more contacts and started working with community members.
As the season progressed, I was swamped with community gardens, home gardens, workshops, and PR, when Belinda Pritchard of the Knox County Health Department contacted me. She had been in contact with my aunt, Tabatha Hoffman, who sells produce from my family’s gardens over on the Laurel County side. They were both excited about the prospect of starting up a farmers’ market and were excited to incorporate the Lend-A-Hand Center Grow Appalachia Gardening Program.
The first organizational meeting we had was on May 12, 2014. Several different people including representatives of Union College and community members were in attendance as we sat down to discuss the details of how to start a farmers’ market in the county. We formed the Knox County Farmers’ Market Committee and went over logistics, locations, partnerships, PR, and possibilities. We looked at the “Kentucky Farmers’ Market Manual and Resource Guide” (a very good resource) and set out to work on a vendor agreement. We looked at agreements that other markets had and what Knox County had tried to use in the past.
The group met again a couple of times and we settled on an opening date of June 19th. After debating whether to have a weekday evening market or Saturday market, we decided on Thursday nights from 5-8pm so we could have music and entertainment and catch people going home from work. The biggest challenge in the process was finding a good location. We wanted it to be in downtown Barbourville, but in a high traffic area. We ended up partnering with a local business, the Paul Baker Law Office. Mr. Baker has allowed us to use his parking lot for the season and even have access to the water and electricity hookups.
We started doing PR, set up a Facebook page, and made a dedicated email address. Union College personnel helped us develop a great logo. With a very small sponsorship from Spread the Health Appalachia and Barbourville Tourism/Main Street we were able to order a banner and yard signs for the market and purchase a few tents, tables, and chairs. We registered with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and became “Kentucky Proud” and “Appalachian Proud.” We filed paperwork to become an LLC, although I hope in the future the market could be a farmers’ cooperative or nonprofit of some kind. Tabatha and I were suggested to be market managers and we are working on bylaws for the market. We are also working on opening a bank account so we can organize funds and hopefully get some grants.
On June 10th, a week and a couple of days before the opening, we had a farmers’ informational meeting. We publicized the meeting through the extension office and fliers around town. We probably should have had the meeting at least a couple weeks before the opening, but we were still finalizing logistics. During this meeting we went over the vendor agreement and sought feedback from farmers, gardeners, and future customers.
To be honest, I don’t know how to start a farmers’ market. Every market is different and every location and organization is different. I think it’s all a learning experience. The most important things are having the right people. To have a market you need vendors and customers. You also have to have the right people working to get things off the ground and to ensure the market will be a success. I am so grateful for the committee that has formed and the people in Knox County who are really excited about this new project.