Wayne County meeting to gauge interest in starting year-round local food market

SALEM, Ohio — Farmers and food producers from Wayne and surrounding counties are invited to get in on the ground floor of a new year-round farmers’ market in downtown Wooster.

A meeting will be held to gather ideas and share details of the new project, called Local Roots Market and Cafe, May 4 at 7 p.m. at the Wayne County Public Library’s Wooster branch.

Project

Local Roots is the brainchild of a dozen steering committee members whose interests vary from fruit, berry and vegetable production to banking, architecture and electrical work. Those members all came together to share their common interest in locally produced foods, according to committee secretary Jennifer McMullen.

“They all came on board with lots of ideas to offer. There’s so much brought to the table by everyone,” she explained.

Their plan is a year-round farmers’ market and to eventually see their dream of an eat-in cafe, community processing kitchen and workshops to let consumers get closer to those who produce their food.

Expanding

The steering committee has been working with Wayne County commissioners to secure a vacant building in downtown Wooster for the project, which is viewed as an extension of the popular outdoor farmers’ market already held in the city.

Expanding the market into a sheltered building will allow the market to stretch year-round, as well as offer vendors amenities like refrigerated cases and permanent shelving, McMullen said.

Vendors will rent space in the building and still be able to have the traditional vendor stall setup, which will allow farmers and growers to identify their products and display farm signs.

McMullen said organizers are putting high emphasis on keeping producers — the faces behind the food — front and center and allowing them to share stories on their farms and production methods with consumers.

Producers don’t have to raise their products organically, but ecological and sustainable methods are preferred, she said.

Ease of use

The market, organizers say, will be different from anything already available.

For instance, McMullen said vendors will be able to rent their space and bring their produce to the market, but won’t be required to spend an entire day hanging around to sell their wares.

Instead, farmers will drop off their foods, the committee will organize the products, and special codes in cash registers will help designate which farms sold what each day and pay them accordingly.

McMullen said the committee is also looking at offering online ordering in addition to a licensed community kitchen where producers can come to package their foods and meet local and state health department rules.

“We’re trying to make it easier and take the headaches out of marketing for producers,” McMullen said. “We’ve just got to help in getting the products out to the customer.”

In addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, the market hopes to sell grass-fed meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products and other items.

Renovations

The building organizers hope to get OK’d for the project will need several renovations before the market can kick off, but McMullen said the steering committee hopes to have it open this summer, possibly as soon as early July.

Local Roots Market will be operated as a cooperative, and all producers who wish to sell at the market will be required to purchase a membership for $50 per year. That fee gets producers special mention and links on the market’s Web site as well as marketing help.

Customers do not have to become members but will have the opportunity to buy into the cooperative, McMullen explained. Benefits to consumers include discounts on classes the market hopes to offer, or exclusive in-store specials.

“We’re trying to emphasize farmers and producers, to get everyone under one umbrella for local foods and get everyone in the community to look at us,” she said.

Enthusiasm

Though there is no contract signed yet to give the group rights to the downtown building, McMullen said there is “a good deal of enthusiasm for the project from the commissioners” and that the group of officials “wants what’s best for the community and that’s for us to succeed,” she said.

“In fact, it’s really taking off already, and we’ve not even had the meeting yet. Everyone already wants to know when we’re going to open.”

About the Author

Former staff reporter Andrea Zippay wrote for Farm and Dairy from 2001 to 2009. More Stories by Andrea Zippay

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