Sherry Johnson of the Spring Hill Farmers Market is looking to bridge gaps locally and bring attention to area businesses and organizations
Sherry Johnson started the Spring Hill Farmers Market in 2010 because she thought â€œthis town needed a watering hole.â€
â€œPeople who live in Spring Hill for so long have worked other places, shopped other places, [attended] churches other places,â€ Johnson said. â€œAnd now we have all of that here, but I saw that there was still a disconnect between neighbors. So I wanted to create an atmosphere where people could meet, and share dinners, share life, share whatever is happening. I wanted it to be a place, too, where they would come and hang out.â€
In this the marketâ€™s fifth summer of existence, Johnson said that people are indeed hanging out on Thursday afternoons after shopping at the vendor booths for locally produced fruits, vegetables, meats and handmade goods. Markets happen every Thursday evening from June through August, with vendors selling from 3:30-7 p.m. on the grounds of the Tennessee Childrenâ€™s Home facing Main Street.
Besides encouraging neighbors to socialize, Johnson had another purpose with the market.
â€œThe second big goal was to support buying local,â€ she said. â€œThe first year we limited participants to those within a 15-mile radius [of the Childrenâ€™s Home]. Placing that limit made participation very sparse. We had a hard time finding local vegetables that were growing in that limit. So we opened it up to 40 miles and that allowed some of the Amish farming families from Summertown to come in. And now the market has really taken off.â€
One of the ways she encourages patrons to linger is by designating certain Thursdays at the market with specific themes to feature local businesses other than food suppliers.
â€œOur biggest complaint in the past has been people saying, â€˜You want us to come here and hang out, but thereâ€™s nowhere for us to go to the bathroom.â€™ We solved that by inviting these businesses into the market, and now thereâ€™s a port-a-potty available every week,â€ Johnson said.
Thursdayâ€™s market will be a night to showcase local service as the children of South View Church pass out water to patrons, and listen for their prayer needs. On July 17, the market will hold â€œI Love My Job Dayâ€, which will be open to all job employment specialists and higher education training facilities. July 24 will be Back to School day and feature any business promoting back-to-school specials.On Aug. 10, there will be a market day dedicated to local nonprofit organizations. One market day in August will be designated as an Arts and Entertainment day, the date of which is yet to be determined.
For each of these themed market days, organizations are encouraged to offer some sort of game or free activity for the children of patrons.
â€œVendors or businesses that include [a kid-friendly game or activity],â€ Johnson said, â€œcan pay $10 for their booth instead of the normal $25. Iâ€™ve found that the businesses that are giving out play tattoos or balloons keep the kids occupied, and that allows parents to stay longer at their booths.â€
One disappointment with this yearâ€™s markets so far has been the lack of power supply at Ferguson Hall, the historic mansion which sits on the grounds of the Tennessee Childrenâ€™s Home. In previous summers, the market has included live musical performances on Thursdays while people shopped. But severe storms the week before Juneâ€™s first market knocked out power at the mansion, preventing any performances so far this year. Johnson is awaiting word from the managers of the property, overseen by the Board of the Tennessee Churches of Christ, as to when power for the live music will be restored.
She says that managing the weekly ups and downs of the Market â€œrequires flexibility. I have to be open to what it is that the people want.â€
Staff writer Greg Jinkerson covers Spring Hill for BrentWord Communications. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.