The Sun News

Farmers Market flying high after six years

Katherine Maxwell buys carrots and garlic from new International City Farmers' Market vendor Kaye Smith, of Vesterfield Farms.
Katherine Maxwell buys carrots and garlic from new International City Farmers' Market vendor Kaye Smith, of Vesterfield Farms.

When the International City Farmers' Market started in 2010, it had just eight vendors.

Fast forward to now and Jodi Daly, the market's organizer, has 50 vendors she works with who sell their wares each Thursday from 1-6 p.m. at the corner of Watson Boulevard and Maple Street.

From handmade jewelry to locally grown produce, the farmers market fills a need in the community.

"The people that live here, they want this and they make it happen," Daly said.

In just a few short years, the market has seen tremendous growth.

Last year, the market averaged 1,300 visitors each week. During the summer months, the number is closer to 3,000 while in the winter it is about 800, Daly said.

Daly explained that people are looking for a healthier approach to eating.

The market gives EBT users double-credit at the market as an incentive for shopping.

At the main booth, shoppers can also use debit and credit cards to exchange for tokens to use at the various merchants instead of carrying cash.

Classes on healthy recipes take place on the fourth Thursday of each month. Aspiring chefs from Helms College host demonstrations to show how easy it is to cook with items found at a farmers market.

One vendor is taking her tent and switching to brick and mortar.

Rikki Waite, owner of My Grandma's Empanada, plans to open a lunch shack to sell her popular Panamanian food.

Her mother was raised near the Panama Canal as well as her grandmother, from whom she got her recipe as well as the name for her business.

She uses locally raised beef as well as other organic ingredients, such as mild cheddar and oil.

She started selling out of her empanadas each week and decided to branch out. Waite's ultimate goal is to get a food truck, but she cannot do that without a store front.

"It is all about making people happy, one empanada at a time," she said.

Waite is a Warner Robins native whose parents relocated here because of Robins Air Force Base.

Her ability to open a restaurant came directly from the weekly farmers market.

"I look at this market as an incubator," Daly said pointing to Waite as an example of how the market can take a part-time business and make it a way to make a living.

The market on a windy Thursday attracted a few first- time visitors as well, including Denise Foster, who was trying Waite's empanadas for the first time.

Foster has only lived in Houston County a month and is already planning on becoming a vendor, although she doesn't know what she wants to make.

Foster relocated from Charleston, South Carolina.

"I love farmers markets. Whenever I find one, I'm going to go," she said.