Farmers Market opening shows great potential of downtown area

Published 12:09 am Sunday, June 18, 2017

Saturday’s opening of the Downtown Natchez Farmers Market was a great first day in what holds the potential to become a regional, summertime tradition.

Over and over patrons and merchants alike kept saying, “Isn’t this great?” and “This is wonderful for Natchez.”

Both sentiments were spot-on and spoke to the satisfaction all seemed to take in the market’s first day.

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The very first people daughter Anna and I encountered were longtime friends and artists Johnnie and Loraine Griffin, who were talking with a prospective customer, Joan McLemore, also a longtime friend.

All three were happy with the market and the turnout and agreed they hope it continues this summer and grows over time.

The first farmers market was great and is a testament to the many hard-working people who made it happen, including coordinator Eddie Burkes and the many others who were working behind the scenes to get the event cranked up.

I bumped into Burkes and Mayor Darryl Grennell in the middle of Commerce Street, which was blocked off for the event.

Both men are to be congratulated for seeing the need and having the vision to make a downtown farmers market possible.

They both talked about how the market could grow. I agree. I could foresee the market becoming so large that multiple streets might need to be blocked off to accommodate the number of vendors and the crowds.

With a little sunlight, more time getting the word out about the market and some patience, the market has the potential for being a great, seasonal draw to downtown Natchez.

Giving people — locals particularly — a good reason to regularly visit downtown is much needed. Aside from the actual commerce more local people visiting downtown would provide, the sheer presence of more people downtown would cause downtown to be much more alive and more vibrant.

Downtown Natchez is among our area’s best attractions, but it still lacks a cohesive, consistent series of events to help draw more people.

The farmers market has the potential be one of those key events.

But the city must also polish up downtown a bit and keep it polished if we ever expect to routinely attract the tourists and give them a world-class experience.

One farmers market patron pointed out she had been walking on the Natchez Trails and was disgusted by the number of used cigarette butts discarded along the path, in many cases near trash cans.

After Anna and I made a few purchases — flowers for Momma and fresh corn to eat — we decided to head over to the bluff for a quick walk. Anna loves to enjoy the bluff, the Rotary fountain, the Bridge of Sighs and the bandstand.

We were hardly out of the car before I quietly began noticing how much the woman at the market was correct — bits of junk were everywhere.

In just a short walk, discarded drink containers, cigar butts, an empty motor oil container and even a condom were seen littered along the walking trail.

It was a sad distraction on what is otherwise one of Natchez’s best attractions — the Natchez Trails.

Figuring out how to either fix this by nabbing the litterbugs or at least routinely cleaning up after them seems critical to Natchez’s success in the future.

Perhaps stringing up a series of security cameras along the trails along with aggressive enforcement of trashiness would help. Or perhaps the city could devote a few hours of a public works crew’s morning — even on weekends — to make a quick pass through the Natchez Trails and clean up the garbage.

For the people who see the great potential in the farmers market, we all should also see the need to make down more tourist friendly. One way is to keep the high traffic areas as clean as possible.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or