Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
"Forget all your cares and go downtown. Things'll be great when you're downtown. No finer place for sure, downtown. Everything's waiting for you ... downtown." -- Petula Clark, the song "Downtown."
The community farmer's market, run by the University of Georgia's Clayton County Extension Service Office, is on the move this year.
After spending the last three years in the extension service's parking lot, on Government Circle, in an out-of-the way corner of northern Jonesboro, city leaders and extension service officials have agreed to move the market to the city's downtown area this year.
Officials in both camps said this is an ideal move that they hope will bring more exposure to the summertime, outdoor market, which is now in its fourth year of existence.
"They were down on Government Circle, in their parking lot -- and No. 1, they needed more space, and No. 2, they did not have a lot of exposure where they were," said Jonesboro City Councilwoman Pat Sebo, who helped foster talks between the city and the extension service on the issue.
"It was just an opportunity for us to bring them to the downtown area, where they could get more visibility."
This year's farmer's market will open June 25, in the city-owned parking lot on West Mill Street. The lot is behind the Heritage Bank, located at 101 North Main Street, in Jonesboro, according to officials from the city and the extension service.
Extension Service Program Assistant Tom Bonnell said the market is open to local residents who grow fruits, vegetables or plants, or other goods that can be sold in a market.
Typically, vendors in the past have mainly come from the Jonesboro area, he said. Last year, items available for purchase at the market, ranged from bottles of home-made honey and multiple types of fruits, to potted plants and home-made cakes.
"Our goal is to get people to come in and buy some fresh fruits and vegetables," said Bonnell, who added that the market will run through late September.
Bonnell, one of the farmer's market's organizers, said the extension service's previous location proved a difficult hurdle to overcome in past years, which is why he is glad to see it move to downtown Jonesboro. The extension service does not charge vendors any fees to set up shop at the market, he said, and that leaves little money for advertising.
Therefore, the market's location and visibility are very important for advertising it, Bonnell said. "It's a much better location [in downtown Jonesboro]," he said. "We were off to the side before, and most people couldn't see us ... We missed a lot of people who drove by [the extension service office], and didn't even realize we were there."
Bonnell later added that he sees the move as a "win-win" for the extension service, and the city.
Sebo said the move will encourage a deeper community atmosphere, not just at the market, but throughout the city as well. She said the market will be open Saturdays, during the summer, from 8 a.m., to noon, and on Tuesdays, from 11 a.m., to 1 p.m. "It's going to be neighbors selling to neighbors," she said.
The extension service, she said, will also offer gardening classes at the Jonesboro Firehouse Museum and Community Center, which is located at 103 West Mill Street.
"I'm excited," she said. "It's going to bring the community together in a environment where they can see their friends and socialize with each other, and buy some fresh food that's healthy for them."