“This has been a very challenging year with all the rain that we’ve had,” Pugliese said. “Of course, it’s a different kind of challenge than we’ve had the previous few years with the drought. So we’ve gone from one extreme to the other, but this year everybody is really delayed and behind in planting. So a lot of our crops are going to be coming in probably at least 15 to 30 days later than average. So that’s kind of where we are at this point.
“We did start the market at June 1 this year and just the last few weeks all we’re really seeing as far as produce is your early crops, like squash, cucumbers and zucchini, maybe some beans are just starting to come in and that’s about it. So this year, I don’t think we’ll really see the corn and tomatoes really starting to peak until the second or third week of July.”
Started in the early 1980s by the late Bartow County Extension Agent Walter Culverhouse, the Cartersville Farmer’s Market operates Wednesdays and Saturdays from June 1 to Sept. 28. Held at Founders Oak Park at 10 N. Public Square, the market opens at 7 a.m. and closes at noon.
This year — after a town hall meeting was conducted in 2012 — vendor permit fees were implemented to help strengthen the market through increased promotion, additional activities and providing farmers an assigned selling space. The vendor permits — $20 for season, $10 for monthly and $5 for daily/weekly — can be obtained at the Welcome Center, One Friendship Plaza in Cartersville.
“It’s been [received] very well,” Pugliese said, referring to the vendor permit fees. “I haven’t really heard any complaints to be honest with you. I think most folks appreciate the fact that we’re trying to do more to promote the market. They see the publicity. They see the signage around town more so than they ever have.
“I can’t speak as to how well the traffic flow has been [because] it’s still kind of early in the season to really make that call, and to be honest with you, the true peak of the season doesn’t come up until July and August. So that’s when our traffic flow should hopefully pick up and see hopefully the results of all of our hard work this year.”
Echoing Pugliese’s comments, Cartersville farmer Dennis Smith is looking forward to increased foot traffic as the later summer months yield more crops.
“I enjoy meeting new people, making friends,” said Smith, who has been selling produce at the market for about six years. “... Right now, I have several different kinds of squash, strawberries and blackberries. Later on, I’ll have green beans, okra ... turnip greens and kale. And I’ll have collards later and mustard greens. [So far it has been] slow, very, very slow [as far as] customers.”
Unlike past years, 2013’s market is sponsored by Cartersville Downtown Development Authority, Bartow County Extension Office and Community Health Network.
“All three organizations partnered together this year for the overall benefit of the market,” Cartersville DDA Manager Tara Currier said. “While DDA handles most of the logistics of the event — collecting applications and fees, working with city to coordinate the numbering and closure of the lot, and assigning vendor spaces — Bartow County Extension Office has been instrumental in the agricultural department, while CHN has done a great job with overall marketing of the event. Paul Pugliese has made himself available to essentially any and all farming questions, and does great with coordinating classes and offering information on licensing and certifications needed for some items sold at the market.
“Of course the work with the Master Gardeners and having them come out some of the days of the market is a great avenue for people to ask more questions. The Facebook page and overall awareness of the market to consumers has been tremendous thanks to CHN. DDA has limited time and staff, and so the work CHN has provided as far as media promotions, assistance with putting out signs/handing out cards and fliers for the market has been great. Vendors have noticed an increase in traffic, though we still want to see more and more people coming out every Wednesday and Saturday to support these local farmers and craft vendors.”
As of Wednesday, Currier said 28 vendors had obtained vendor permits. Pleased with the response so far, she revealed more vendors currently are registered than the number that participated during previous peak periods.
“Continuing to make the public aware of the market is my biggest goal,” Currier said. “These farmers and craft vendors put a lot of time and energy into what they are selling. Many of them are out here at 6:30 a.m. getting their areas set up, and are out here until noon. They work so hard and I want there to be hundreds of people coming out to support them, especially those who use a lot of what they are selling each week. I love knowing that I can purchase produce that is locally grown and not full of growth hormones and pesticides, and at the same time support a local farmer.
“Additionally, the jewelry, birdhouses and other craft items being sold are great gifts. There is really a lot being offered at the market; people just need to come down and check it out. I am sure if they do, they will be surprised at what they find and will come back. As a way to entice more people to come see what the Cartersville Farmer’s Market is all about, some added entertainment and activities will be offered throughout the season, including the Tom & Chad Show and Ask a Master [Gardener] on July 13 and Aug. 10; a Tomato Festival and other cooking and/or fitness demonstrations and kids’ activities as well.”
For more information about the Cartersville Farmer’s Market, call 770-607-3480 or visit its Facebook page, Facebook.com/cartersvillefarmersmarket.