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Boro Farmers Market returns
Main Street venture to open every Saturday through Nov. 25
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Flanked by a pickup truck full of turnip greens, Marie Robinson, top left, sells an apple pie to Kim Brannen during the Main Street Farmers' Market in 2008. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/file
     Saturday marks the beginning of the second season of the Main Street Farmers Market in downtown Statesboro. Taking residence again in the Sea Island Bank parking lot, this farmers market has grown into a legitimate Saturday morning event attracting both locals and visitors alike.
      Big changes are in store for the market this year. It will be held every Saturday through Nov. 21, instead of just two Saturdays per month. In addition, with the support of the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority, Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Georgia Southern University Botanical Garden, the Main Street Farmers Market has a Market Board of Advisors in place, as well as an operations policy, bylaws, and a sponsorship package.
      "The Market Board is composed of 15 individuals who represent the community, farmers, businesses, county and city government," said Statesboro resident Debra Chester, chair of the Market Board of Advisors.
      Chester said those wishing to participate in the market this year will need to submit an application.
      "We are asking vendors and farmers to complete an application seven days before the market that they are coming to so that it may be reviewed by fellow farmers and others on the review committee," Chester said. "We are dedicated to selling only locally produced products. The definition of local would be products grown or produced within the six counties around us, or a farmer or producer from outside of this area who wants to bring a product to our market that he or she has produced themselves."
      Complete with its own web page where applications can be obtained and a full calendar stretching through the Fall, it would appear that last year's farmers market set the stage for a much larger weekly event with more community involvement. Mitzi Hook, who serves as Education and Demonstration chair for the organization, said her mission has been to bring different organizations in each week to showcase their wares and talents.
      "I have spoken with Future Farmers of America clubs within the school system as well as 4-H clubs," Hook said. "I know that the FFA club at Southeast Bulloch is going to bring jams and jellies and hanging baskets. Different schools are going to have their chorales and choruses perform for those at the market. We really want to reach out and make this a community event each week, showcasing not only the food that is grown here, but the talent that is grown here as well."
      Chester said the market has a slogan summing up its mission - Know your neighbor. Know your food. "We want folks that live here to buy what is produced here," she said. "We want our farmers to bring to the market what they have grown. It is an excellent way to learn and support those you live near."
      A large part of the marketing campaign for this year's farmers market has been executed by Jaime Riggs, executive director of the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau. "From developing a website, to advertising, creating a logo, and printing t-shirts, we have tried to be as helpful and proactive as we could be," said Riggs. "Since agri-tourism has become one of the premier economic engines for tourism in our state, promotion of our agri-businesses in Bulloch and surrounding counties through the farmers market helps contribute to tourism and to the local economy in general."
      Riggs said there is a state-wide initiative coined "Georgia Made and Georgia Grown" that has been created by a private company in conjunction with the Georgia State Tourism Foundation and the Creative Economies Initiative.
      "It is our hope that if we as a community support that initiative, we may qualify for a grant which would enable our community to construct a permanent site that could be used for the market or for other activities such as plays, bands, and gatherings."
      One local vendor who is excited about the return of the market is Bobby Colson, a local beekeeper and co-owner of B and G Honey Farm. "The farmers market allowed me to accomplish three very good things last year," Colson said. "First, I was able to sell my honey at the market. Secondly, I was able to share with many people the important role that bees play in agriculture, and finally, I was able to talk with farmers about using bees for pollinating. I use to sell my honey through word-of-mouth, now I have an outlet for it. It's just great."
      One addition to this year's market that Chester is very excited about is the Garden Table Café. "We will have chefs that will cook on site some of the produce that has been brought to the market that day," she said. "People will be able to sample some of the wonderful ways that you can prepare our local produce. I think that will be phenomenal."
      To learn more about the Main Street Farmers Market and how to become a sponsor of the event, visit the organization's website at www.mainstreetstatesborofarmersmarket.com. To learn more about the "Georgia Made and Georgia Grown" initiative visit the organization's website at www.georgiamadegeorgiagrown.com.