NATIONAL FARMERS MARKET WEEK SPECIAL REPORT: INTERVIEW WITH Connie Weathers OF THE norcross FARMERS market in norcross, georgia.

Guided by the Georgia Farmers Market Association, Norcross Community Market seeks to carry out a replicable model for a successful farmers market that can be implemented around the state. They take care to incorporate several unique programs include WWG’s Fresh Food Bus and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program Pilot Project to create the most successful farmers market possible!

Wholesome Wave Georgia: To what do you attribute your market’s success?

Connie Weathers: We have responded to the wants and needs of the community as expressed by respondents to a survey we conducted in January 2015 after the original farmers closed at the end of 7 year run.

WWG: Name a program or initiative that makes your market unique.

Connie: We are a very diverse community. The previous market seldom reflected that diversity in vendors nor customers. We determined that to attract more diverse customers we needed to have more diverse vendors who offer the types of products our diverse customers want. We partnered with Norcross Police Community Outreach, and UGA/Gwinnett County Cooperative Extension Service to bring a ServSafe class to Norcross conducted in Spanish (the predominent non-English language of our residents). The approximately 12 ladies who were certified in the first class in 2015 were recruited to provide prepared foods and beverages reflective of their cultures at the annual Gateway International Food and Music Festival in September 2015 as part of the city's observance as a Welcoming City. Two of the graduates have shared a booth at each of our new farmers markets this year. A second class of 8 has just been certified and the ladies are preparing to be vendors at the 2016 Gateway Festival that we are organizing. We hope to add them as vendors at the 2017 farmers market. In addition we offer EBT/SNAP with doubling by WWG in this first year of our market.                     

WWG: Tell us the history of your market.

Connie: After 7 years the original farmers market closed. Sustainable Norcross, the advisory board to Mayor and Council of City of Norcross, assists the City in becoming and remaining certified by the Atlanta Regional Commission as a Green Community. One of the measures states the city must provide space and support for a farmers market. The volunteer board conducted a survey to ascertain the level of interest in a market and the features desired by the community. They also researched best practices and nearby markets to develop a plan for the new farmers market. The organizers worked with the City, Downtown Development Authority, a marketing firm and other sponsors who provided some cash and much in kind support. Another key partner is our co-organizer, Georgia Farmers Market Association. Together we are conducting a pilot project to identify a new working model to share with GFMA members. Our first season is ending after a 10 week run and we are preparing 3 monthly pop up markets to extend the season and try some additional variations to our operating model. We have a variety of customer satisfaction tools being used each week by our market statistician and her team.

WWG: What is one unique thing you can find/buy at your market?

Connie: Authentic elote - seasoned corn on the cob, a popular Mexican street food made by our Latino ladies and poffertjes - tiny Dutch pancakes with or without alcohol infused ice cream..

WWG: How are you celebrating National FM Week?

Connie: We are getting a proclamation signed by our Mayor, inviting elected and other leaders and sponsors to the August 13 market which is the last day of National FM Week and the last regular weekly market of our season. We are working on a portable photo frame for customers to use when they take pictures of their favorite thing about our market (also good info for planning the next market season).We will ask them to post  them with #marketfav as suggested by National Farmers Market Coalition.