KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Farmers Market and the downtown location of Food City have become bosom buddies.
“Two days a week the biggest crowd in Kingsport is down on Clinchfield Street,” joked Jim LaFollette, president of the Kingsport Farmer’s Market. “Wednesday we draw a pretty good number, but on Saturdays we’ll have upwards of 5,000 people pass through the market during the day.”
The crowds fill up the Food City parking lot, and that seems to be just fine.
“Folks shop us first, and if they can’t find everything they need they just walk across the parking lot and get things from Food City,” added LaFollette. “Even the other businesses down here tell me they are benefiting from the traffic we get at the market.
“Food City and the other businesses are the best neighbors we could have,” said LaFollette. “From what I can tell, they are very pleased to help the Farmers Market any way they can.”
On any given Wednesday, there are about 25 vendors on site at the Farmers Market. By Saturday that number reaches into the 40s.
“Since we moved to the Farmers Market location on Clinchfield Street our membership has increased to about 100 vendors,” said LaFollette. “All our spots are assigned so that the vendors know they will have a space no matter what time they get here.”
The majority of vendors come from Hawkins, Sullivan and Washington counties. A few come in from Greene County and Scott County, Va.
“I try to also bring in local gardeners from Kingsport,” LaFollette said. “They are taxpayers and want to sell their goods, too. It’s important to make room for them.”
Besides the local community, the Kingsport Farmer’s Market is attracting attention across the nation.
“This started as just a Farmers Market and has now become a business,” said LaFollette. “We have to continue to enhance what we do and advertise our product.
“We have a website with a link off of the city of Kingsport’s site,” said LaFollette. “And we’ve put signs out on [Highway] 11-W near Wellmont [Holston Valley Medical Center] to let people know we’re open and how to get to us.”
The promotional effort has paid surprising dividends. Visitors from New York, Maryland, South Carolina and even the Midwest have shown up at the Kingsport Farmer’s Market recently.
“Since moving to the new location, the reception and support we’ve received from the community has been overwhelming,” LaFollette said. “Our partnership with the city of Kingsport has been outstanding. They have done everything imaginable to allow us to be a successful market.”
The indoor facility on Clinchfield Street has made a big difference.
“That building completely changed the game for us,” added LaFollette. “It allows us to do so many things.”
And where does the Kingsport Farmers Market go from here?
“With the use of greenhouses, I see farmers being able to extend our selling season,” LaFollette said. “We’ll also see more and more varieties of items.
“Eventually, I can see us growing to 120 to 125 members with sales from spring well into fall.
“Customer-wise, the sky is the limit,” said LaFollette. “I think we can continue to handle even bigger crowds.”
Upcoming, the Farmer’s Market will be a Fun Fest participant during the Dinner at the Farmers Market on Sunday.
“We provide all the fruits and vegetables for the dinner,” said LaFollette. “The chefs from Asbury Place prepare the meal and we are proud to be a part of that.”
Great products, great location. Check out the Kingsport Farmers Market, they might have just what you need for dinner.