While folks at Jonesborough Locally Grown were thinking big when they presented the idea for the Boone Street Farmers Market in historic Jonesborough, their key to success may lie in their approach to thinking small.
Small, that is, in how the facility caters to small-scale farmers in the area – even those who may just have a patch of ground for growing produce.
“I think the thing that distinguishes us from anywhere else is we are able to serve even the backyard gardener who wants to sell, say, a bumper crop of sweet potatoes without having to get into a wholesale relationship,” says Karen Childress, executive director of Jonesborough Locally Grown (JLG). “We have a fellow who brings in muscadines whenever he has them. So there’s a lot of serendipity in it.”
It’s also a “proving ground” for those getting into farming on a smaller scale, she says.
“It gives them a chance to test the market. We hope most will want to continue to grow into larger-scale producers.”
Boone Street Farmers Market is a unique redevelopment project that converted an old abandoned service station on a high-profile corner of downtown Jonesborough into a year-round market. It officially opened for business in October 2014. Attracting farmers and consumers throughout the region, vendors sold more than $250,000 worth of locally grown products at the market during its first year.
Funding for the project, which was completed in partnership with the Town of Jonesborough, came through grants from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the state’s USDA Rural Development office, as well as donations from individuals, businesses and civic groups.
“Customer-wise, we have folks who haven’t just shopped with us but who have also invested in the store as members,” Childress says, adding that the market had 330 members after the first year of operation. “We thought that was a pretty good showing.”
JLG is a nonprofit organization that also operates the Jonesborough Farmers Market, which opened in 2008. The Boone Street facility is a farmers market-plus of sorts, open year round with vendors selling not only produce, but other food products as well. Vendors include Mountain View Bakery, Sunset View Farm and Panacea Coffee Company, among others. The building is also a fully equipped retail food space with fixtures, display freezer, a display-front walk-in cooler and commercial kitchen.