Saturday, May 01, 2010

TOP STORY >> New farmers market open

Former Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim (in red tie) with his granddaughter Avery Swaim, 3, are flanked by Jacksonville Parks and Recreation director Kristen Griggs and Mayor Gary Fletcher, along with chamber of commerce president Jason Wilkinson and city officials at Wednesday’s ribbon cutting at the farmers market.


Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Farmers Market is opening today at the newly constructed pavilion located next to the Jacksonville Community Center.

City officials decided to not let the prospect of stormy weather deter their plans to open the market, which they hope will become a popular gathering spot for the community. The 2,000-square-foot, open-air pavilion made of brick and steel cost the city $186,000. The market is under the direction of the city’s parks and recreation department.

“We’ll be there rain or shine,” said Marla Jackson, the market director.

Market hours on regular market days, which are Saturdays and Wednesdays, will be from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. But anyone wishing to sell is not limited to those days.

“If they have a permit, they are welcome to come any day they want,” Jackson said.

The market will be open until the end of October.

Today, Smokin’ Joe, a local mobile-food vendor, will be at the market with barbecue, snacks and drinks. Holland Bottom Farms will be there, weather permitting, with strawberries, and Taylor Produce of Jacksonville, a farming business, has also purchased a permit.

As the season progresses, the hope is that more growers and gardeners, professional as well as hobbyists, will want to come to the market to sell.

Items that may be sold at the market are baked goods, cheeses, vegetables, flowers, fruit, grain, honey, marinades and sauces, molasses, bedding and hanging plants, raw juices, trees and other similar produce. Art, crafts and other handmade items are also allowed.

Prohibited items, according to city ordinance, are “flea market” items, novelty knives and weapons of any nature, items with obscenities, written or implied, and live animals.

City permits to sell at the market are $25 per year for vendors who sell only items that they make or grow or those who already have a Jacksonville business permit. Vendors who resell any items grown or made by someone else pay $100 per year for a permit.

There is no daily fee to sell at the market. Spaces are free and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. If the pavilion is full, vendors may set up shop in the adjacent parking lot.

Jackson said that a lot of folks have called who are interested in selling at the market, but it is still early in the growing season. Right now, Jacksonville’s untested market is feeling the competition with the local-only market in North Little Rock, now in its third year, as well as the long-established River Market venue in Little Rock, and the much smaller market in Cabot.

Mayor Gary Fletcher acknowledged that a day with stormy weather “is not a good day to inaugurate the market.” But the pavilion, he believes, is “a nice facility to incubate the project,” which he has faith will catch on with time.

Jackson said anyone with questions about the market can call her at 982-4171. The market rules are on the city’s website, on the parks and recreation department page.