Wednesday, May 23, 2012
If You Go
What: Ringgold Farmers Market.
When: Saturday, beginning June 2, from 8-11 a.m.
Where: Catoosa County Courthouse square on Nashville Street.
Beginning next month, people can visit the county courthouse not just to see judges and apply for licenses but also to pick up fresh produce from a “tailgate” farmers market.
The market, tentatively scheduled to open June 2, is the result of talks among members of the city’s Downtown Partners, Downtown Development Authority and the newly formed Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“I’m a member of the DDA, and our goal is to promote Ringgold and help drive its economy,” said Marcy Cirlot Kernea, of Ringgold Telephone Company. “We started talking about the market and found there is so much involved in planning one that we turned to Chris Thomas for advice.”
As the owner of Palo Duro Records, an independent recording label, Thomas manages the Northwest Georgia Bank Amphitheater for Catoosa County. Thomas also owns Chattanooga Public Markets, the nonprofit corporation that operates the Chattanooga Market on Sundays at the First Tennessee Pavilion and the Chattanooga River Market at the Tennessee Aquarium Plaza on Saturdays.
Daniel Shepherd, Ringgold’s marketing and DDA coordinator, said that rather than hire Thomas as a consultant he has become a partner with the city’s fledgling market.
“He was wanting to expand the Chattanooga Market at the same time we were wanting to start our market,” Shepherd said. “The size and popularity of their market next to Finley Stadium shows they clearly are doing some good stuff.”
Now focused more on developing local markets than recording artists — “Unlike the music industry, people haven’t stopped buying food” — Thomas said he expects Ringgold’s market to start small and grow over the next few years.
“These things take on their own life,” he said, noting that Chattanooga’s has grown from fewer than 75 vendors five years ago to now having more than 300 vendors with an additional 100 or so wanting to join.
Shepherd said he expects some who participate in Ringgold “will be locals who cannot provide the volume that the Chattanooga Market could handle” and some will bring excess produce to market if they have a bumper crop.
“It will be an evolving process,” he said.
Everyone involved in bringing the market to fruition said they hope there will be about a dozen regular vendors from the start and that those numbers will grow.
“We’ve had calls from entrepreneurs and farmers in North Georgia that can’t work at Chattanooga Market who are interested in coming here,” Thomas said. “For some, this provides a chance to market their produce and products; for others, it is a chance to help their community.
“We’re happy to be participating in the rebuilding of downtown and have the expertise that can make this market happen.”
Kernea said the town’s proximity to Interstate 75 — and the high price of fuel — could attract customers from Dalton and Chattanooga to shop in downtown Ringgold.
This relationship should be a great thing,” she said. “We do not have a specialty food store, so if you want goat cheese you can’t find a local product. Maybe now you can. And with the growing interest in shopping locally and knowing where produce comes from, this is a way to support local agriculture and the community.”
Thomas said several of the Chattanooga Market’s regular vendors — Possum Creek Herb Farm, Lee & Gordon Greens, Buffalo Brad’s Steak Jerky and others — will be among those at Ringgold’s market.
Vendors interested in participating should contact the Chattanooga Market by calling 423-402-9960 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.