A Thriving Market, Inside Historic Jackson Square
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.
- Rebecca Williams is the director of Grow Oak Ridge LLC, which produces the Winter Farmers’ Market at St. Mary’s School.
- The Jackson Square Business Association is made up of small businesses in and around Jackson Square.
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).
- Read Jackson Square Business Association’s Letter HERE.
- Read the Fresh Savings Program letter of support HERE.
- Sign the petition HERE to ask City Council to consider our proposal.
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:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
 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.