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Springfield considers starting farmers market
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Springfield City Council members want to find just the right spot for potential farmer’s market.

Melissa Reagan of Madrac Farms asked council members at their meeting Tuesday night if the city could help establish a farmer’s market to be held every other weekend.

“There’s not an outlet for people who grow and produce naturally-grown products,” she said. “People are talking about it. But nobody has really stepped up.”

Reagan said some of the vendors who sell produce in Effingham are either not from the county or have their products shipped in from elsewhere. She said she’d like to set up a farmer’s market in Springfield every second and fourth Saturday — Guyton has established a farmer’s market for every first and third Saturday.

And if Springfield sets up a farmer’s market, Reagan assured them the local farmers would come to offer their wares.

“I have 10 interested,” she said, “and 10 more will follow. There’s enough of us in Effingham County who support this.”

There are two concerns to be addressed, Reagan noted. One is having a space large enough to accommodate the vendors and the patrons and also having suitable parking. Another is having liability insurance.

“One of the issues we run into is liability,” she said.

That’s one reason she inveigled the council to help find a suitable location. Reagan and City Manager Brett Bennett looked at the Effingham Fairgrounds and thought it had ample parking.

“We’ve talked about a farmer’s market for a while,” Bennett said. “Now we have people who want to do it.”

Council members, though, hope to put the farmer’s market closer to the center of town.

“Our plans for Ulmer Park are custom made for this,” said council member Kenny Usher.

Added council member Charles Hinely: “If she wants a site, we’ll get her a site.”

Jamey Stancell of the Springfield Merchants Association said his group supports the idea of a farmer’s market in Springfield and would like to see a Laurel Street location as the first option.

Reagan said there is a great deal of interest in agritourism and agribusiness in the county. She said county extension agent Bill Tyson has been getting calls from people about farm visits and she posted on Facebook who wants a farmer’s market in Effingham. She received a host of affirmative responses almost immediately.

“The county is sitting on a gold mine,” she said.

Ruth Lee of the Effingham Convention and Visitors Bureau also said there are tourism opportunities available for the community.

“There are many sites that have to be pointed out and developed,” she said.

Council members agreed to a resolution backing the efforts of the ECVB as the state begins its commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Lee pointed out there are sites of historic interest in Springfield, aside from the Old Jail and the Courthouse, namely the Mars Theatre and the Methodist Campground.

The ECVB is collaborating with several other groups to identify possible historic and tourist interest sites. Those sites will be brought back to the core group so a plan can developed for drawing attention to those locales.

Lee said they also hope to tap into Savannah’s massive tourism market for visitors who want to take a day trip to Effingham.

“The economic impact of tourism is significant,” she said. “It is the second largest industry in Georgia, and Savannah is the largest tourist site in Georgia.”

Officilas with the state Department of Economic Development’s tourism branch visited Effingham in May, and a 10-member team will return in November. They will spend nearly a week in the county, Lee said, and they will return a tourism marketing plan six to eight weeks after their visit. She added that Bruce Green, director of product development for the Department of Economic Development’s tourism division, said Effingham “was sitting on a gold mine.”

The ECVB aims to have a kick-off of its tourism activities around Dec. 8 this year. Gen. William T. Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee entered Effingham on Dec. 8, 1864, on its “March to the Sea” and the eventual capture of Savannah.
Sherman’s forces entered Effingham in three columns on their way to Savannah.

“We determined at this time the Civil War needs to be a priority,” she said. “That gives you four years you can develop.”