Does local farmers’ market need a reset?

Published 12:41 am Sunday, March 19, 2017

The yellow pollen covering practically everything in sight indicates spring is here.

In no time flat farmers and green-thumbed residents will begin pulling fruits and vegetables from the ground.

As the years pass the more marveled I become with gardening and farming. Tiny seeds planted in the ground grow into an amazing variety of fruits and vegetables. It is truly an amazing process.

Email newsletter signup

For those of us without verdant thumbs, we can still enjoy wonderful flavors from local produce, thanks to farmers, friends and neighbors who sell or share their crops.

Unfortunately, with the demise last year of Natchez’s farmers’ market, finding good spring and summertime pickings will be more difficult this year, unless our community finds a quick solution.

Natchez needs a farmers’ market again, in the worst way.

The former facility closed its doors in late 2016. It was managed and led by Alcorn State University.

That may have been its downfall. The farmers’ market was trying to be too big, trying to sell too much stuff to be successful.

That’s understandable and no real fault of Alcorn’s DNA. Universities hire people, build out plans and then implement those plans. They’re not business people, therefore, their management of farmers’ market may have been troubled from inception.

The Natchez farmers’ market had paid employees and a permanent facility that was open much of the week.

In addition to the overhead that comes with having employees on the payroll, the Natchez farmers’ market also was cursed with a poor location on St. Catherine Street.

The former market was open all week and was on a one-way street.

Most other such markets in our region are open either a single day of the week or perhaps two or three days only, and usually only for part of the day.

A better location and more reasonable hours may have helped.

Alcorn recently was trying to determine how it might stay involved in a Natchez farmers’ market.

Regardless of what the university decides to do, Natchez needs to move ahead with a plan — quickly since produce will start coming out of the ground in the next 60 days

This does not seem like a terribly complex thing to create, particularly if the plan calls for a non-permanent market.

A location might be found on any number of public or private spots of land.

A few might include:

  • The parking lot on the bluff, adjacent to the former railroad depot on Broadway Street.
  • The parking lot on the corner of State and Canal streets.
  • The grassy space on the bluff where the former pecan factory was located.
  • The Liberty Park area.
  • The corner of Main and Martin Luther King Jr. streets.

Location options abound.

Having the market downtown (either on a Friday or Saturday) would be good for downtown as a whole, potentially drawing more people to the area.

Rather than try to reinvent the farmers’ market that Alcorn tried to create, let’s consider a reset, starting relatively small and allowing it to grow naturally over time.

The question then arises: Who should coordinate it?

Alcorn could do it.

The city’s community development office could handle it.

The Natchez-Adams County Chamber could as well.

The fact is, a myriad of folks with an interest in growing Natchez’s retail base and developing downtown could handle it.

All the farmers’ market needs is to plant a seed in the mind of the right person and a little community watering and great things could sprout.
Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or