GFMA Member Market Feature | WayGreen Local Fare Market

As part of our feature series on GFMA member markets, we wanted to introduce you to the WayGreen Local Fare Market. In this feature, market manager Connie Oliver gives us insight into why markets are so important and how GFMA is working to support them. Browse through the Q&A below to learn more from Connie. 1. When and Why did your market start? The WayGreen Local Fare Market began in May 2015 on the grounds of the Okefenokee Heritage Center in Waycross, GA.  The market began out of the need for fresh local food to be made available to the people living in our city and surrounding area as well as to give local growers/farmers a venue to sell their product.

2. What makes your market unique?  The local fare market is unique in the fact that it not only offers a market where locally grown/produced food is made available but artisans, artists, musicians and craftsmen are welcome to offer their products/services as well.  Vendors are located within a 100 mile radius of Waycross and agree to a visit by one of the market committee before being accepted.   Another aspect making this market unique is in the fact that it is run completely by volunteers through the Homestead Guild of the Okefenokee Heritage Center.  The Homestead Guild was formed out of a desire to see people return to a more sustainable lifestyle living closer to the land by growing their own food and learning skills and training to assist in the "homestead" way of life.  The market is just one of the many projects that the guild has taken on since forming in 2014. One of the most unique things about our market is that we have our own house band, Millwood Drive, who plays each month for donations.  Free samples of items being offered by vendors on market day are cooked in unique ways and offered as samples by Chef Andy, Way Green's resident local chef.

3. Give us an idea of what a typical market day looks like. What vendors are there and what type of products can shoppers find?  The WayGreen Local Fare Market is held outside on the grounds of the Okefenokee Heritage Center the first Saturday of each month May-November from 9am to 12 noon.  Since some of our vendors travel nearly two hours our day starts at 7am.  This gives the over 35 vendors plenty of time to set up before the over 700 customers arrive.  Our vendors include Georgia Olive Oil, Gayla's Grits, Oliver Farms, Smith's Family Dairy, Georgia Buffalo, Gilliard Farms, Bruce's Nut N Honey and Tree House Macarons, which are all known statewide and beyond.  We also offer local food favorites Griffin's Meats (pork & beef), Ft Mudge Farm (pastured pork), Southern Harvest Produce (hydroponic lettuce, herbs, greenhouse tomatoes), Greenway Gardens (chemical free produce), Rogers' Farm (chemical free produce), Ga Country Clover (eggs), Tender Harvest Microgreens, as well as others offering jams, jellies, breads, eggs, beef jerky, cow milk, goat milk, cupcakes and crepes. Our artisans offer goat milk & vegan soaps/lotions, woodcrafts, hand spun/dyed yarn, jewelry, pine needle baskets, art, photography, decorative gourds, fishing lures, compost teas as well plants and flowers.  The offerings change monthly.

4. What's the one thing you wished people understood about farmers markets, farmers and/or the work that you do?  Spending money with your local farmers, growers and artisans not only supports those people but it also supports our local economy.  Knowing how your food was grown and who grew it can help people feel secure in the safety of their food choices.  Sometimes prices at local markets are higher that at the big box grocer.  If people take the time to know what goes into growing the food, it helps understand why things cost what they do.  Education is important to show the care, concern, time and money that local farmers put into the product(s) they make available.

5. Why do you think local markets are important to communities?  Way Green Local Fare Market patrons continue to say how much needed the market was and how grateful they are to have it made available.  The market not only offers people local food choices but it also is giving a sense of place to those who attend. The Local Fare Market is the "front porch" of days gone by where people would gather to sing, eat, meet their family and friends to catch up on all the local happenings.  Communities need outlets like the market to reconnect to those growing their food, making local products and the community in general.

6. How is GFMA assisting you and your market in connecting people to local food?  GFMA provides us with tools and resources we would not be able to get otherwise.  Already we have received exposure for the market that is proving to be invaluable through the efforts of GFMA.  We recently purchased wooden tokens that we use as "cash" at the market through an offer made by GFMA.  GFMA gives us further exposure through social media and other marketing campaigns.

7. Is there anything I haven't asked that you'd like to mention?  This year, Way Green Local Fare Market received AgSouth's "Think Outside The Store".  This enabled the market to receive much need marketing funds, as well as reusable market bags for our customers.  The grant also helped launch a weekly "Truck Market" giving  farmers/growers/producers another outlet to sell their product and consumers a weekly opportunity to buy local food.

To learn more about the Waygreen Local Fare Market, visit their webpage.