This is the third in an ongoing series of posts, Heather Jones shares her first-hand experiences as she attempts to bring a farmer’s market to her rural community of Woodbine, New Jersey; population: 2800.
My Meeting with the Mayor
Last week I finally had my long awaited conversation with my town mayor where I planned on getting him just as excited about the prospect of starting a Farmers Market as I was. I have known this gentleman practically all my life but yet I was nervous beyond belief prepping for this little sit-down.
When I arrived at his office you should have seen the curious looks on the faces of the various office staff. Most of the people in the office knew who I was, where I worked, and couldn’t possibly fathom what I would need to speak with our beloved Mayor about. Heart pounding I went into his office and had a seat across from him as he finished up a cell phone call. I don’t remember exactly how much time passed but next thing I know he says to me “Okay Kid, what I can do for you? Everything okay on your side of town”? At first I thought this a rather odd question but I would imagine residents must come to him with the weirdest complaints about their homes, neighbors, taxes, etc. I can only assume that being the Mayor of such a small town can be a bit of a pain from time to time.
I immediately launched into a very compelling argument about why Woodbine needs a Farmers Market, how it would be a way to put our small town back on the map to show people that we’ve come a long way from our past. That the upcoming generations need to know where our food really comes from, our small town was once home to one of the state’s Agricultural colleges what better way to get back to our roots then by having a community Market. I could tell he was impressed by what I was saying, he sat and listened very intently smiling.
I thought I had this in the bag but then he said to me. “I love the idea, I can tell you’ve done your homework and I do believe it would be a wonderful thing for our community I just have one issue. I’m not crazy about the location that you proposed.” My heart sank. I tried not to let my disappointment show and explained to him that the location is centrally located to all of the traffic that travels through town (It’s on DeHirsch Avenue which is right off of Washington Ave which is basically our “Main Street,” where most of the local businesses are located.). The water tower and field would be on your left.
Proposed Farmer’s Market Site-Woodbine, NJ
He suggested two other locations, both of which were too far off the beaten path in my opinion. He then questioned the initial investment of advertising, tents, tables, etc. I told him that these expenses are minimal and since we aren’t looking to roll out the market until summer 2010 we have plenty of time to raise the funding if needed for those things. I also explained that we would hopefully make that money back rather quickly during our inaugural season.
He then wanted to know what the next step was. I told him I needed to go before the council and have a letter from the Borough to forward to the state department of agriculture stating that we are proposing to begin a community Farmers Market for the summer 2010. The Dept. of Ag will contact local Farmers in the area to make them aware of the new market and encourage them to participate. I also plan on visiting some of those Farms myself and speak with the Farmers directly. He said okay, told me to have myself put on the agenda for the next Borough Council meeting in August but he was also going to look into some more alternate locations and would be curious to see what the Council thought of my proposed location as well.
I left his office feeling a little deflated, I’m glad he likes the idea and wants to see it happen but at the same time really concerned about his lack of enthusiasm over the location. Doesn’t he realize that without the right location the market will not be a success? However, it does sound like that if the Borough Council goes for it then so will he…I hope. Well it would seem as if my work is just beginning so now I need to prepare myself to present to the council and also take a drive around my town and look for a back-up location. Stay tuned for a follow-up post detailing the events of the council meeting, next month.
Next Time: Having just finished a book on the evolution of television cooking shows, and preparing for the release of a movie about the Godmother of all cooking shows. Where are the shows about sustainable eating?
Heather Jones is a wife, mother, freelance food writer, and graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. She has worked for Gourmet Magazine, TV Personality Katie Brown, and the New York based Indian-fusion restaurant Tabla. Heather resides in New Jersey with her husband and two daughters. She is a strong supporter of the Sustainable Food Movement and believes that education is the key to making a difference.