Oak Ridge Farmers’ Market: A plan for growth and renewal

A Thriving Market, Inside Historic Jackson Square

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A joint proposal between Jackson Square Business Association and Grow Oak Ridge for the summer Oak Ridge Farmers’ Market.

Our Vision

In many towns in America, the farmers’ market is the centerpiece of the downtown area. Most markets are located inside a square, or on a closed Main Street, so there is crossover pedestrian traffic between stores and the market. This becomes a gathering spot for children and adults, and offers a real “local flavor” to visitors.

Image Credit: Shawn Millsaps

Like Lavender Festival, pictured here, our market could be so beautiful and fun for families if located around the fountain, near the shaded walkways of Jackson Square!

Also, our market could offer nutrition programs like SNAP (food stamps), or Fresh Savings (double SNAP for produce), or the POP (Power of Produce) Club for children, in which kids take 2 bites of a vegetable and get $2 coupons for the market. Health departments may offer blood pressure screenings or nutrition information.[1]

But to produce these types of programs, our farmers need outside help. They simply do not have the time (and often, the inclination) to organize this kind of a market. They need a community organization to do that, and that’s where we come in. Grow Oak Ridge would like to be authorized by the City to produce the Oak Ridge Farmers’ Market as described below.

Market Details:

  • Opening at 9 a.m. (rather than 8 a.m.), inside Jackson Square to create crossover foot traffic. Manager will assign spaces for an orderly market.
  • Square closed for pedestrian traffic only, but always leaving a section for handicapped / limited mobility / Salon parking (see MAP page 26).
  • Market would be for local producers only, meaning they “make it, bake it, or grow it” themselves within 150 miles of the market. All current FARM vendors will be invited, as well as more crafters and prepared food vendors.
  • SNAP and the Fresh Savings Grant will be accepted at the market.
  • FREE weekly children’s programs will be offered, including the POP Club when business sponsorships are available.
  • Special events coordination with Jackson Square businesses. While farmers cannot be moved (it hurts their income tremendously), there is no reason why events cannot occur around the market on the sidewalks. On Lavender Festival Day ONLY, market will move back to the Broadway parking lot. (see MAP, page 26).
  • Selling in the Broadway Ave. parking lot will be prohibited during market season on Saturdays.
  • Grow Oak Ridge LLC will not run a Wednesday market. If FARM wants to continue that tradition, we have no problem with that.

Financial Commitment

  • Grow Oak Ridge will pay for all insurance, signage, SNAP equipment, vendor management tools, advertising, program costs and labor. Investments in this project will total approximately $50,000 in the first year.
  • There is NO cost to the City of Oak Ridge or Jackson Square, except for cooperation, and enforcing a no-sell zone on market days in the Broadway Parking lot.
  • Grow Oak Ridge will charge growers $10 per space, and an extra $5 per truck. This is comparable to Market Square $10-$20, New Harvest Park, $10, and Dixie Lee Farmers’ Markets, $10-15, three very successful markets in the region. Non-farmer vendors would be charged higher rates, as is customary at other markets.
  • Grow Oak Ridge recruits business sponsors to pay for its children’s programs. Past sponsors have included The Ferrell Shop, State Farm Agent Laura Lynn Riden, Thrive Chiropractic, Lilla Rose Hair Accessories, Downtown Hardware, and others.

What we ask from the Oak Ridge City Council

  • We respectfully request that the City Council instruct the City Staff to enter into a 3-year contract for Grow Oak Ridge to manage the market inside Jackson Square, with the city enforcing a no-sell rule in the Broadway Parking Lot on Saturdays during market season, April – November.
  • For adequate planning to occur, we request that this decision be made by Aug. 1, 2018. Thank you for considering this proposal to benefit Oak Ridge.


[1] In 2015, over $19.4 million in SNAP redemptions were made at farmers markets across the country, according to the Farmers Market Coalition. Out of the 8,600 markets in 2015, 6,483 of them were authorized to accept SNAP.

Five Tips for Selling at Farmers’ Markets

Here’s a conversaion I overheard recently at an area farmers’ market:

Farmer #1 – “This market s****s.”

Farmer #2 – “What do you mean? This market is great!”

Now, I respect both of these fine farmers, but I have to say, whether a market is “good” or “bad” depends quite a bit on one’s selling ability.

Some vendors are wonderful at selling their products; others, not so much. Here are a few things I have noticed that the successful ones have in common:

  1. Bring a LOT of product. If all you have in your garden is a few heads of cabbage and a tomato, you might want to skip that week and come be a customer. The truth is, there’s something psychologically depressing about an empty table. It says, “well I’m not a very good grower, here’s all I have.”  One farmer told me he didn’t want to put all his stuff out because the kids might knock it over. OK. That’s a legitimate reason to buy a really sturdy table, but not a good reason to hide your product from your customers. If I have to take the LAST item on your table, it makes me think I’m somehow depriving you… no thanks, I’ll just find somebody who has an abundance.
  2. Lifts and Levels – Lining all your little veggies up in a row on the table is tidy, but BORING. Think of how a fancy buffet always has some of the food lifted onto platters elevated above the others. Get it up in baskets, on shelves, whatever! Get it eye level and you’ll sell more. I love it when jewelry vendors display on a mannequin, and yarn vendors bring portable shelving. WARNING – Do not hide behind the shelf. See #5.
  3. Signage – I really can’t stand to see a vendor with no sign. It’s like that game of “Guess Who?” I used to have to play with my kids. Hated the game…. Who is this person? What are they doing sitting here? Who knows? There are 20 other vendors here, and they have signs that say something special about them! Are they organic? Locally grown? Genuine silky haired high-IQ chicken eggs? Whatever…. you know what’s special about your product, so TELL ME! Try Vistaprint.com, you can get a banner for less than $20.
  4. List your prices – I was once in Thailand, and the street vendors didn’t have any prices listed, because they expected you to bargain with them. Back and forth we went, for each purchase, until we agreed on a price. HATED THAT. I mean, when in Thailand, do as the Thais, but this is the United States. We like things predictable, and we like our prices listed fairly.
  5. Stand up and SMILE – I know you’re tired and nobody works harder than a farmer… believe me, I get that. However, if you’re going to sit back with your arms folded, eyes half closed, am I going to wake you up to ask you to sell me something? Nope.  I am too polite, and I will move on to the next vendor who is awake. And if they’re standing up, that’s even more inviting. Nobody likes to leer over someone else… again, not polite. So please stand. Just don’t stand behind that shelf you put up.  No one will see you!

Those are my TOP 5 Tips for selling at a farmers’ market. What are yours?