First Wooster Farmer’s Market to launch Saturday

By Tammy Keith Originally Published August 11, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated August 9, 2013 at 11:39 a.m.
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WOOSTER — Here’s what Emily Harris, one of the organizers of the new Wooster Farmer’s Market, knows:

The grand opening will begin bright and early Saturday — 6 a.m. — in Wooster City Park, and a free breakfast will be served.

Here’s what she doesn’t know:

“I have no idea how many vendors we’re going to have,” she said.

Harris, who lives between Greenbrier and Wooster, said she and the other founders are excited that the market has finally come together.

“There has been a large wave of support for the farmers market, and they have tried to get it off the ground previously,” she said of the community.

The Road Runners Extension Homemakers Club, to which Harris belongs, received a $2,000 grant to get the market going. The money came from the Blue and You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas.

First, she and other members of the Road Runners club had to attend training, which was required for the group to apply for the grant.

The training was provided by the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention.

Wooster City Park is a perfect venue, Harris said, because of the walking track and playground available.

“Not only is it vendor-friendly; it’s customer-friendly,” Harris said.

“We know that access to healthy food and increase in healthy activity reduces chronic disease,” she said. “We know that for a fact.”

Harris, a longtime member of the Arkansas Coalition of Obesity Prevention, has a master’s degree in public health from Tulane University in New Orleans. She is a field researcher for U.S. Public Health Services.

Somewhere down the line, she said, farmers-market attendees may be given credit toward purchasing produce for walking on the track or doing other physical activity.

This first market, which will end at 10 a.m., will have a “festival-type atmosphere,” she said, with activities such as face painting for kids.

Harris said that for this first year, the market’s rules for vendors will be fairly loose.

Vendors can set up for free, but anyone who needs electricity will pay $5.

Setup can begin at 5 a.m.

Also, vendors don’t have to have grown their own food to participate.

“If someone comes with a load of watermelon from Hope, we wouldn’t turn it away,” she said.

“We request you register ahead of time, but there will be registration applications the day of sale.”

One rule, though: No live animals or birds are allowed.

“We will start full force next year and have a little more structure and rules,” she said.

Also, Harris emphasized that the market is for farmers and crafters.

Two planning meetings have been held thus far, bringing together a group that includes Wooster Mayor Terry Don Robinson, pastor Freddie Mark Wilcox of LifeSong Baptist Church in Greenbrier and others.

Harris said the University of Central Arkansas Environmental Alliance and the Faulkner

County Citizens Advisory Group are collaborating on the project.

“We have broad support from the community,” she said.

“We’re also supported by the Faulkner County Extension Office,” Harris said.

Robinson praised the Road Runners club for its approach.

“I think they went about it the right way this time, and I think it’s going to be a success,” the mayor said.

“They have tried [to start a farmers market] before in a small way, but they just didn’t have enough organization,” he said. “We’ll see after the first one or two times what it’s like. They’ve laid the groundwork right.”

Robinson said the market will fill a void.

He said Wooster only has a Dollar General and one convenience store, neither of which has fresh produce.

“They’re pretty much going to Conway [to get fresh fruit and vegetables],” he said of residents.

“It will give local people who have gardens a chance to sell their produce,” he said.

Harris said the goal of the Extension Homemakers Club is to see the market be self-sustaining.

“The grant application was that we would nurture the farmers market this year where the board would be able to stay on its own and carry through to next year,” she said.

“I really like that word ‘nurture.’ We’re going to rock that baby,” she said, laughing.

The next Wooster Farmer’s Market meeting, which Harris said is open to the public, will be at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Wooster Fire Department.

For more information, call Harris at (501) 733-2409 or email her at EmilyHarrisMPH@gmail.com.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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