Downtown Natchez Farmers Market asks county for help

Published 1:05 am Monday, September 25, 2017


NATCHEZ — While supervisors as a whole did not take action, one supervisor said he would personally help out the Downtown Natchez Farmers Market for the fall.

Market coordinator Eddie Burkes came to the board last week to request a total of $5,350 — $1,750 for the fall market and $3,600 for the summer market. Burkes said the money would be to not charge vendors $10 each Saturday.

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Burkes said $10 is not a lot of money, but some vendors travel and others are just testing their products to see if a potential market exists. The market, which also has arts and crafts vendors, averaged 38 vendors and a crowd of 500 to 600 people a week during the summer.

“We feel it would be a greater success for the market if we could keep from having to charge,” Burkes said. “We feel if we can keep the market free we can hopefully help make the market grow into a bigger market.”

District 3 Supervisor Angela Hutchins said she applauded Burkes on the success of the market.

“This is a good thing,” she said. “The market gives a person a chance to get out and get some fresh vegetables.”

However, Hutchins said she did not think $10 would be a lot for a vendor to pay.

“We are to pay $10 per person for the vendors to come and sell for their livelihood?” Hutchins said. “They are making money. We are paying for their livelihood.”

Burkes said he agreed that is essentially what supervisors would be doing, but he said he saw it in a different light. Burkes said the market brings a lot of people downtown, and business and restaurant owners have been telling Burkes that they get a boost on Saturdays.

Burkes said the market also helps farmers grow their market, and some have ended up placing their goods in stores, which generates taxes.

“We hope and feel you would look at is as an investment, allowing them to come and bring their goods,” Burkes said. “You are making an investment in the community, an investment in the people.”

Over the summer, the market had also requested  $2,000 of the county for advertising.

Board attorney Scott Slover said until the market receives certification from the Mississippi Department of Agriculture, the board could only provide funds for advertising.

Burkes said he would consider getting the designation for the spring, but that getting the designation comes with pros and cons. Burkes said only half of the markets in the state are certified because the rules and regulations are strict and could hurt some vendors.

Board President Mike Lazarus said until Burkes changes the request to ask for advertising funds, the board could not act. Lazarus said Burkes was welcome to come to the board’s next regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 3.

However, District 2 Supervisor David Carter said if Burkes needed funding before then he could help him find funding.

“I know there is a lot to it, it’s not let’s have a farmer’s market and everyone shows up,” Carter said. “You have to recruit. You can see the success.”

Carter said over time — perhaps after the fall market — he thinks vendors would not mind paying the $10.

“I know you are still in the growing stage,” Carter said. “But if you have a fall like you did the spring, and the next is successful, you will have plenty of people in. Most vendors expect to have to pay a price.”

Carter said Wednesday Burkes had come by and seen him and Carter plans to donate personally and through his business.

“The farmers market is something that is needed in the community,” Carter said. “It is something positive that helps everyone regardless of age, race or money — everyone benefits from it. We need to be pushing events like this.”

Burkes thanked the board and also suggested potentially renaming the market to the Natchez-Adams County Farmers Market.

The fall farmers market is set to open on Saturday, Oct. 7, The market would be open 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday until Nov. 18.