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Farmers market growing on Springfield
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Business has been steady at the Springfield Farmers Market. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

Traffic on Springfield’s Laurel Street near its intersection with Highway 21 can get a little slow on Friday afternoon, and not solely because drivers are in a rush to get home.

The Springfield Farmers’ Market, the brainchild of Clay Hinely, is drawing customers every Friday afternoon, and business continues to be brisk.

“We’ll have weeks where it’s traffic jams,” Hinely said.

The farmers’ market is open every Friday from 3-7 p.m., and there are 12 vendors who come every week, Hinely said.

He started the market as a way to draw interest for his barn business. With an empty building there, Hinely had a venue suitable for vendors.

“We were trying to get more people on the property for the barn business,” he said. “It just seemed like a simple way of advertising and to help the community. I’m already paying the light bill, the mortgage and the insurance, so it doesn’t cost me anything to let them set up and run the market. I don’t charge them anything.”

There are 12 vendors who come every week, selling everything from fruits and vegetables to handmade soaps, honey products and meat.

“We usually have a meat vendor, too,” Hinely said. “We have fresh pasta and fresh eggs.”

Rules for vendors are basic — “They have to make, harvest or grow half of what they bring to sell,” Hinely explained.

All the covered spaces are taken, but there is room for 30 vendors.

“We’re actively seeking new vendors,” Hinely said.

He approached the first 12 vendors about coming, and now they are recruiting other vendors they know.

“Now that the word is starting to get out, these people all work together and they see each other at different markets,” Hinely said. “The word of mouth is starting to pick up a little bit, and we’re starting to get weekly customers. They’re coming here to shop and supplement their groceries.”

There’s another benefit that has come from the market, and Hinely welcomes it. It’s the interaction that develops between customers and suppliers.

“People don’t know their neighbors anymore,” he said. “This is, you get to know people and hear their story. We enjoy that aspect of it. It’s been rewarding so far.”

Hinely said they will keep the farmers’ market open until at least fair season in mid-October. But his vendors are lobbying him to keep it open longer.

“They’re starting to ask me to run until the second week in December,” he said. “As long as we have customers and vendors, we’ll keep it going.”

He also figures his vendors will have plenty of products to offer, if he stays open into December.

“Most of your farmers are planting,” he said. “In October, because we’re in south Georgia, you’ll have squash, cucumbers and tomatoes. That’s been the hardest part, finding produce vendors.”

Supervising the farmers’ market and running the barn business where he sells pole barns and metal roofing isn’t Hinely’s only occupation. He’s also a tugboat captain.

“It’s been fun so far,” he said. “It’s relaxing for me. I go, go, go so much. I know Friday at 12, I let everybody else do their thing.”

The farmers’ market has done most of its marketing through an old-fashioned method, word of mouth, and through a more modern tactic, its own Facebook page.

“The word’s getting out,” Hinely said, “and everybody seems to be pleased with it.”