By Jana Jones
Johnson County Farmers Market Manager
Growth is a good thing, right? Outgrowing a space is a wonderful dilemma to have. Our goal at the Johnson County Farmers Market has been to grow in order to better serve our community. As we grow, we are able offer more local produce, more farm fresh meats, more vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, etc. as well as highlight more of the artisans of our area – be they bakers, crafters, or candle-stick makers.
During our 2016 season we grew from an average of 8 to 10 vendors each week to an average of 15 vendors, with as many as 22 vendors during the height of our season. We are very grateful to Mayor Potter for allowing us to set up in the courthouse parking lot, but there is no more room for growth within the confines of the parking lot.
In order for the market to continue to grow and be successful, there are 5 essential elements needed for any property we would consider: visibility, accessibility, plenty of parking, bathroom facilities, and the ability to expand. Ideally, we would build a permanent covered pavilion so customers can shop out of the rainy weather. Grant monies allocated for economic growth are available to us for this building project, but we need land to build upon. We have limited resources and are not able to acquire land of our own, therefore we are dependent on the generosity of the City Council to allow us to use city property. Ralph Stout Park meets all of the 5 essential requirements and is considered an ideal location for the Johnson County Farmers Market by many community members.
In addition to housing the Farmers Market 3 hours a week, the pavilion we build could serve as a multi-use recreational facility. It would be available at all other times to the community for use as a covered basketball, soccer or volleyball practice area, or to be rented out for weddings, reunions, dances, club events or retirement parties. This is a vision shared by many who would like to build tourism in our area as well as offer our youth more outlets for healthy physical activity.
If you share this vision and would like to see the proposal for this pavilion go forward into the planning stage, then we need you to speak up! Let your aldermen know if you wish to see the Johnson County Farmers Market allowed to partner with them in building this multi-use pavilion at Ralph Stout Park. You can do this by writing to the four City Aldermen at 210 S. Church Street, Mountain City, TN 37683. They will be voting on this proposal at the City Council meeting on April 4th.
Your Farmers Market exists primarily to provide locally grown food and serve the health of our residents. I believe the market could not only succeed in this goal but thrive and contribute to the community gathering atmosphere should we find a home at Ralph Stout Park. So, please, let your voice be heard.