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February 21, 2014

Farmers market idea gains momentum

Local farmers, growers and others meet to further discuss concept.

Live Oak — The idea of bringing a farmers market to downtown Live Oak gained more traction Monday night as several local farmers and growers met with Live Oak Community Redevelopment Agency members and others in an informal meeting to discuss the idea.

CRA Director Tim Williams along with board chair and Live Oak City Councilor Keith Mixon were present to discuss ideas and get feedback from local farmers and growers on the best course of action.

“From the CRA’s perspective, we’re doing more than we’ve ever done in the past, more than the city’s done to create opportunity in economic development,” said Williams.

Williams said it was decided to add the farmers market concept to the list of projects as a way to drive folks downtown while at the same time, helping our local economy.

If feasible, Williams said several sites within the CRA district have been looked at for a possible farmers market and wanted to know what the opinions were of farmers and growers.

He turned the proceedings over to Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent Elena M. Toro from the Suwannee County Extension Office, who said she believes there is a growing interest for consumers to know the farmer and to know where their food was coming from.

Toro asked what strengths there were in the idea of a farmers market. Local farmer Josephine Costa said she and many mothers are interested in consuming healthier foods and there has been a concern for produce grown outside the area and even the country.

“Sometimes we do walk around the grocery store and think, this is from Mexico or this is from China. We don’t want to buy this for our families,” said Costa. “A clear and obvious strength is if you’re going to have local produce, there are families that want to receive the health benefit.”

One issue raised was the re-selling of produce.

Mixon agreed it was a problem, especially further south, that some farmers were getting their produce from another source and re-selling it.

“It created a bad situation,” said Mixon.

Williams asked whether the structure of strong management and enforcement helped the farmer or not.

“You need the strong enforcement because if you don’t, it’s like everything else. Everyone does what they want,” said local grower Carol Dewulf.

She said if there wasn’t strong market management, it would allow anyone to get their produce from an unknown source and sell it as locally grown.

Dewulf said advertising would be essential for the market to work successfully. Costa

agreed and said there was much opportunity for success, but it would depend on community support, location and management. She added the farmer’s market could also create a networking hub that could benefit different clubs and organizations.

Jim Dewulf said it was his experience that a farmers market could turn into a flea market once numbers start to dwindle.

“Does the opportunity to bring more than agriculture to a farmers market create a problem?” asked Mixon.

Carol Dewulf said it doesn’t create a problem as long as it was within the “you bake it or make it” category, not items you might find at a yard sale.

Mixon agreed he didn’t want a farmers market to turn into another flea market. He said the CRA is in a progressive, aggressive mode to develop the city and create opportunity and, although there’s a place for flea markets, he doesn’t want it for the farmers market concept.

“If I’m hearing you correctly, proper organization and management, and funding are essential, along with marketing, that will make this a successful venture,” said Mixon.

Those in attendance agreed a town hall style meeting would be beneficial at a later date to further discuss the concept.



  

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