Clinton farmers market closes early for season

Operators of this year’s new Clinton farmers’ market abruptly shut it down last week with only a few days’ notice — about a month-and-a-half early — blaming the closing on weather-related crop shortages.

When the market opened May 7, the East Tennessee Farm Association for Retail Marketing, also known as FARM, said the market – operating from 3-6 p.m. Fridays in the city parking lot on Commerce Street – would be open through Oct. 29.

“We have closed the Clinton FARM market for the season,” the group posted on the market’s Facebook page on Monday, Sept. 13. “Our thanks and appreciation go out to all our customers, our sponsors, the City of Clinton, the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce, and all in the Clinton community. Your patronage and support helped make this first year of our farmers’ market a success to build on!

“Thanks also to all our hard working farmers and vendors who participated along with our market managers in bringing locally grown food and local products to our new Clinton FARM Market.

“We look forward to seeing everyone next year and wish you the very best until then.”

That was just three days after a post on the market’s Facebook page on Friday, Sept. 10, said, “You still have a few more weeks to visit the Clinton FARM Market! Come on out this afternoon and visit with us!”

What happened?

“Like any farmers’ market, we’re dependent on our farmers,” Kathy Chippendale, East TN FARM secretary, said Monday (Sept. 20). “Rain destroyed some of the crops, so the farmers didn’t have product to bring.”

East Tennessee FARM will bring the market back again next year, though, Chippendale said.

“We certainly have every intention to bring it back,” she said. “We were well pleased with the way the community embraced us.”

While the market was generally deemed successful, there are plans to look at changing the hours next year to satisfy some of the would-be customers who complained that the 6 p.m. closing time on a workday didn’t allow them enough time to come to the market, said Janet Hawkins, executive vice president for retail development at the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce, one of the market’s key local sponsors.

“They were very pleased with their first year and are excited to come back next year,” Hawkins said. “The weather just didn’t cooperate with them this year.

“We did have some people who wished it was open longer in the day, and they are looking at doing maybe 4 to 7 p.m. next year, but keeping it on Fridays,” she said.

The attendance was encouraging, though, Hawkins said.

“There never was a big crowd, but there seemed to be a steady stream of people who came through,” she said. “There did seem to be a rush near 6 p.m. each week. And they did have some pretty stuff there, including some things I’ve never seen, like a kind of zucchini that wasn’t green.”

Hawkins said the chamber is hoping the market can open next year as early as mid-April, depending on the weather. “We’re hoping to have an early spring.”

The vendor counts averaged 12 to 14 each week, after having 16 on opening day May 7, Chippendale said.

“We had plenty of fresh produce,” she said, “such as tomatoes, peppers, corn, green beans, and the okra, which was very popular.

“There were a couple of meat vendors who did very well,” she said. “We also had some baked goods, candy and cookies, soap, and flowers. One man brought Matcha green tea, which was very popular. We also had fresh eggs, pimento cheese, and dairy products. Sunrise Dairy brought milk and some great ice cream.

“We are happy our community sponsors and our patrons supported us so well,” Chippendale said.