New market succeeds: Officials, vendors agree Farmers Market North is thriving

New market succeeds: Officials, vendors agree Farmers Market North is thriving

July 30th, 2012 by Paul Leach in News

Photo by Paul Leach Farmers Market North vendor Mike Ogle, left, discusses tomatoes and peppers with Sherry Cross, Edith Leslie, and Dennis Cross.

Photo by Paul Leach /Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Officials and vendors say they're pleased with Farmers Market North, Bradley County's newest produce market.

The market, at the Bradley County Recreational Park next to the YMCA on Urbane Road, opened in April. Its first season ends in November.

"It's a success for its first year," said Bradley County Commission Chairman Louie Alford, who put several years of effort into the market's creation. "Vendors are here all day every day."

The key amenity is the pavilion, which offers shade and shelter from the rain, Alford said.

The market's two dozen licensed vendors prefer the Monday-through-Saturday operation schedule because it allows them to bring produce when it is freshly picked, Farmers Market North officials said. It also makes visits more convenient for customers.

The market's managing committee estimates that 200 customers visit the pavilion each weekday, and double that number shop there on Saturdays.

"Because of the hours of operation, sunup to sundown, there is never a crowd at the market, just a steady flow of customers," said Amy Moore, assistant to the market committee.

Vendor Mike Ogle, who joined Farmers Market North in early July, said he hopes word spreads about the market.

"Nine out of 10 customers tell me it's their first time visiting the market," he said.

The Farmers Market North project, which broke ground in May 2010, was not built with tax dollars, nor does it operate with tax dollars, Alford said. He estimated that the pavilion and grounds were established with more than $100,000 in private donations of cash, materials and labor.

The opening of Farmers Market North fed speculation that the county had plans to close its original farmers market, but officials associated with both entities have denied the rumor. The county continues to maintain the Bradley County Farmers Market, established in 1974 and managed by the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Office.

The Bradley County Farmers Market, on a shaded lot near the Bradley Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center on Peerless Road, operates from June through September, said Kim Frady, director of the extension office. The market is open from 7 a.m. until "folks go home" on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, he said.

Frady said the summer produce market remains healthy. He said the extension office did not maintain a visitor count but collected sales numbers voluntarily submitted by vendors.

In recent years, vendors reported a combined total of $100,000 in sales over the markets' summer season, Frady said. A bad drought year dropped those figures to $80,000, and a particularly good year accounted for nearly $150,000 in total sales, he said.

The Bradley County Cannery, the market's sidekick on the grounds, is scheduled to be expanded in the off season, Frady said.