Local residents chat at the University of Georgia Clayton County Extension Service Farmer’s Market in downtown Jonesboro, in this Aug. 24, 2011, file photo. The summertime market is slated to re-open on Saturday.
Jonesboro City Councilwoman Pat Sebo sees a farmer’s market in the town’s downtown area as a positive addition to life in the city.
The city partnered with the University of Georgia’s Clayton County Extension Service office last year to move the service’s annual summer farmer’s market from an out-of-the-way parking lot on Government Circle, to downtown Jonesboro. The market has set up shop in a city-owned parking lot just half of a block off of Main Street, putting it roughly on the edge between downtown businesses and residential neighborhoods.
The extension service also began offering monthly gardening classes, designed to cater to patrons of farmer’s markets, at the city-owned Jonesboro Fire House Museum and Community Center as part of the move to downtown.
All in all, Sebo — who represents the city in the farmer’s market planning process — sees it as a win-win for city residents and local growers.
“The majority of vendors at the market live here in Clayton County because they are either local growers or Clayton County Master Gardeners,” she said. “I think it’s definitely a quality-of-life program because the citizens [in return] have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”
This year’s farmer’s market is scheduled to open Saturday, at 8 a.m., in the city parking lot, which is located on West Mill Street, across the street from the fire house museum and community center. The market is slated to be open every Saturday, from 8 a.m., to noon, and every Tuesday, from 11 a.m., to 1 p.m. It traditionally lasts until October, or whenever people run out of produce to sell.
“What we hope to do is get people good deals on good produce and create an outlet for people who have backyard gardens,” Extension service officials wrote in the farmer’s market brochure. “We have the space to offer and we want to be helpful to the community.”
Although this will only mark the second year that the farmer’s market has been held in Jonesboro, it will actually mark the market’s fifth birthday.
For its first three years, it was held in the parking lot at extension service’s office, on Government Circle in the north end of Jonesboro. But, the parking lot was largely invisible to passers by because Government Circle is a low-traffic street and the lot was downhill and largely out of view from people traveling on McDonough Street, which itself is not a heavily traveled street in that area.
The decision to move it last year was made to boost the market’s exposure while adding a community gathering spot for Jonesboro residents. Since the move, city officials and extension service officials have repeatedly said it has been a successful transition that has allowed to market to — no pun intended — grow bigger and bigger.
“Last year was phenomenal,” Sebo said. “There was one gentleman who was there selling produce on the first day that the market opened, and he told me that within two hours at the new location, he had already sold more produce than he had sold in two weeks when the market was located on Government Circle.”
Sebo added that she and Extension Service Agent Tom Bonnell, who organizes market-related efforts on the extension service’s end, are working on plans to hold a “Georgia Grown Day” at the market at some point this year. It is intended to be a chance to highlight Georgia’s agricultural community.
They are hoping to get Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black to attend and participate in that event, according to Sebo.
Call (770) 473-5434 for additional information about the farmer’s market.