published Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Commission seeks to link farm markets


by Andy Johns
  • photo
    Staff photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press Janet and David Hurtman unload more produce into their stand at the Farmers Market in LaFayette, Ga., in this file photo. The LaFayette Farmers Market operates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays during the summer.

CALHOUN, Ga. -- Jim Henry wants to connect fruit and vegetable growers like tomatoes on a vine to coordinate farmers markets around Northwest Georgia.

Henry, chairman of the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission's Community and Economic Development Committee, shared his vision of a Farmers Market Roundtable with the regional commission at a meeting last month in Calhoun.

He envisions a system in which farmers market members would meet either virtually or in person to be sure they were aware of what other groups were doing. Open communication would at least help the markets promote each other, he said, and could eventually allow markets with surpluses of certain fruits or vegetables to resupply markets with shortages.

Brent Jackson, adviser for the Walker County Young Farmers Association, said coordination would be a great innovation and likely would be well received.

"Networking is the one thing that they need," said Jackson.

Northwest Georgia farmers markets

* Durham Farms: 675 Nellie Head Road, Tunnel Hill, 423-596-1165

* Mercier Orchards: 8660 Blue Ridge Drive, Blue Ridge, 800-361-7731

* Battlefield Farmers Market: 10052 N. U.S. Highway 27, Rock Spring, 706-638-7739

* Freeman Springs Farm: 3895 Freeman Springs Road, Rocky Face, 706-270-2402

* North Georgia Farmers & Flea Market: 310 Legion Drive, Dalton, 706-278-6369

Source: www.pickyourown.org

Kenneth Durham of Durham Farms in Tunnel Hill said he liked the idea of cooperating to promote the markets.

"I think the more you promote them, the bigger they grow," said Durham, who sells most of his vegetables at the Battlefield Farmers Market and the Chattanooga Market.

He said he is a little concerned at the idea of transferring inventory from market to market. If his vegetables are selling well at a particular market at a certain price, he's not sure he would want to transfer them somewhere else, he said.

"At the same time, it's hard to tell what people would give up," he said.

But in terms of swapping ideas and learning from each other, Karen Bradley at the Battlefield Market said all the markets stand to benefit.

She said she learned a lot from a market in Carrollton, Ga., when the Battlefield Market opened in 2005, and she worked with Dade County when it opened a market last year. She said the markets compete, but in the end, can help each other learn from mistakes.

"We try to communicate," she said. "The fewer circles you have to run in the better."

But that communication is not always easy, according to Durham, who said getting messages to the farmers or getting them to meet digitally might be a challenge.

"I think a lot of the farms aren't computer savvy or even online yet," he said.

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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