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

A Thriving Market, Inside Historic Jackson Square

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This proposal is for growth and renewal of the summer Oak Ridge Farmers’ Market, moving it inside Historic Jackson Square, and adding modern programming like SNAP benefits and children’s activities. This is a joint proposal from the Jackson Square Business Association and Grow Oak Ridge, LLC.


Who we are

We write to you as farmers’ market supporters. We are Oak Ridge business owners who love the vendors at our market and want to see it grow and thrive.

We care about Oak Ridge, its residents and our participating farmers. We do not wish not to “replace” or “remove” the farmers but rather aid and assist them by renewing the summer Oak Ridge Farmers’ Market with a plan for future success!

For more than 40 years, the summer Oak Ridge Farmers’ Market has been managed by the East TN Farmers Association for Retail Marketing (FARM). This is an association of professional farmers and hobby growers. Their work is commendable! However, many of the vendors are currently not happy in Oak Ridge because their customer base has decreased in recent years. (20 Letters of support from vendors and stakeholders have been deleted for privacy).

Why do we need renewal at the Oak Ridge Farmers’ Market?

The farmers’ market is on public property, and as such reflects both positively and negatively upon the City. It seems only appropriate for the City Council and/or City Staff to periodically assess the value and benefit of a public market on public land.

There are a number of problems that need to be addressed for the market’s future survival:

  1. The customer base of the market is faithful but aging, and there is no current plan to attract younger families. There are no children’s programs at the market.
  2. The current farmers’ market does not accept SNAP (food stamps) benefits, therefore excluding nearly 20% of our citizens, despite the fact that it is on public land. In fact, the market is located just a few yards away from the Knoll Lane Apartments, managed by the Oak Ridge Housing Authority, and yet those residents cannot attend the market within walking distance!
  3. The Oak Ridge Farmers’ Market faces stiff competition from Knoxville’s Market Square Farmers’ Market. Oak Ridge has lost customers and vendors alike to this market and others that have been established in the last 15 years.
  4. The current Oak Ridge Farmers’ Market offers little to no benefit to merchants in Jackson Square. The market opens Saturdays at 8 a.m., while most stores are closed until 10 a.m. Plus, they are across Broadway Avenue from each other, too far to generate foot traffic back and forth.

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 LLC 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 LLC 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 LLC 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 LLC 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 Council

  • We respectfully request that the City Council instruct the City Staff to enter into a 3-year contract for Grow Oak Ridge LLC 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.

PoP Club at the market!

Kids, join us for our free PoP (Power of Produce) Club at the Winter Farmers Market, starting Jan. 27. Children 12 and under are invited to take 2 bites of a veggie, and get $2 to spend in the market! PoP Club is open 10 to noon, while the market runs 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

PoP Club is sponsored Jan. 27 & Feb. 3 by Laura Lynn Riden, State Farm Insurance Agent. And on Feb. 10 and 17 it is sponsored by The Ferrell Shop. Farm sponsors include Eco Rich Farms. Thank you for your support!

Farmhouse Cooking Demonstration, Jan. 20, 2018

Farmhouse Cooking returns January 20, with Val Colvin, farmer’s wife and expert cook! 

She’ll be cooking up some Butternut Squash in several recipes (see below). If you’re intimidated by this squash, don’t be! First, do you know what it looks like? See if you can pick the Butternut out of this lineup:

 

 

 

Did you pick the one on the left? That’s BUTTERNUT!

Carefully cut the Butternut squash in half lengthwise, using a large knife. Here’s a safe way to cut a hard shelled squash. 

Place  cut squash on baking pan, cut side down, with enough water to put cover the bottom of the pan with about 1/2”. Bake at 350 degrees, until knife inserted easily pierces the skin, approximately 30-40 minutes. If you’re not pressed for time let the squash cool until you can handle it easily. 

Gently turn the squash over and carefully remove the seeds using an ice cream scoop or large spoon.  Mash by either putting into a mixer and whipping or by using a potato masher.  Add butter to taste. This makes a great side dish to replace potatoes or rice in a meal.

FEATURED RECIPES FROM MARKET

Butternut Squash Bake (featured at market Jan. 20)

  • 1/3 C. butter
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 C. evaporated milk or cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 C. mashed butternut squash
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1/2 C. chopped pecans
  • 1/3 C. flour
  • 3 T. melted butter
  • Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, milk, vanilla and spice. Stir in squash. Pour into a buttered casserole dish. Combine remaining ingredients and sprinkle over casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Cabin Fever Squash Casserole

  • 2 c. mashed winter squash
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • ½ c. chopped onion
  • 2/3 c. grated cheddar cheese
  • ¼ t. salt
  • dash Tabasco or black pepper
  • ¼ c. buttered bread crumbs

Bake winter squash on baking pan, cut side down with enough water to put about 1/2” in the pan. Bake until knife inserted easily pierces the skin. Gently turn the squash over and carefully remove the seeds. I use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to scoop out the soft flesh, leaving the tough outer skin of the shell.

Put the squash into medium bowl. Fry bacon until crisp; crumble into squash. Leave about 1 T. drippings in skillet. Fry onion in drippings until transparent; add to squash. Add cheese. Add salt and Tabasco sauce or pepper; mix well. Put in a buttered baking dish; top with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees until heated through and crumbs begin to brown –about 25 minutes,

Butternut Squash Muffins

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 C. Colvin Family Farm Honey or Sorghum Molasses
  • 1/2 C. Coconut Oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 C. grated raw butternut squash
  • 2 C.  soft whole wheat flour (unbleached can be used in a PINCH)
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 1/2 C. chopped nuts (optional)

1. Peel and grate butternut squash. Set aside.
2. Crack eggs into a mixing bowl, whip.
3. Mix in next 3 ingredients. Mix well.
3. In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients.
4. Add dry ingredients all at once. Mix only until mixed as over mixing will create a tough muffin.
5. Remove the beaters from the mixer, and mix the squash and and nuts in by hand.
6. Fill greased muffin cups 3/4ths the way full if using whole wheat, 1/2 way if using white flour.
7. Bake approximately 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Cool on rack. Serve with fresh butter.

Other Creative Ways to Serve Butternut Squash:

1.    If desired add a small amount of sorghum molasses or brown sugar to taste.

2.   Brown fresh sausage and place on the bottom of a casserole dish. Put baked squash that has been removed from the skin and mashed on top of the crumbled, browned sausage. Top with any number of things such as buttered bread crumbs, chopped nuts, or dry oatmeal, nuts and brown sugar mixture that has melted butter drizzled over the top.