The Jackson County Farmers Market is in action and serving the local community.
Even if you aren’t on ‘Cottagecore’ TikTok or someone with a canvas tote bag, participating in a farmers market can be a fun, lively experience.
Located in downtown Sylva in the Bridge Park parking lot, WCU students and community members can shop for local veggies, berries, herbs, flowers, baked goods and even artwork produced by local vendors.
Doug Degood, the market’s manager, said the market’s purpose is to support sustainable agriculture and local craft and to promote economic opportunity for its vendors.
“We [the market] act as a business incubator,” said Degood, “a lot of local businesses will get started here at the market . . . we give people the space to try and get their feet wet in the business world.”
One of the local businesses that started in the market includes Snake Song, a shop selling bulk herbs, plants, pottery, flowers, culinary and medicinal herb products in downtown Sylva.
Degood would also like to see a new generation of vendors try their luck in the market.
“It would be great to see young, creative artists, farmers and business majors come in as venders,” he said.
To become a vendor at the market, sellers must first submit an application to Degood. Vendors may only sell what they make or grow themselves.
One young vendor is WCU junior Sierra Noel, who is studying graphic design and entrepreneurship and brought her business, Angel Tears – which sells natural skin care products – to the market last winter.
Noel primarily sells homemade body butter, lotions and lip balm that help with dry skin because that’s what she relates to the most.
“I was diagnosed with lupus and Sjogren’s syndrome, both that have a symptom of very dry skin,” she said. “I wanted to get started in the market because I was already making products for myself. I wanted to give the ability to others that suffer from the same or similar skin conditions to improve their skin health.”
Noel said she is also looking to showcase her artwork in the market.
“Although I primarily sold skincare products last year, this year I’m looking to add graphic tee shirts and photography,” she said, “because my major is graphic design, I’m always creating designs I think would work super well on t-shirts.”
Alongside vendors, the market also supports buskers or live performers.
One of the live performers at the market is musician Lilah Price, a WCU junior studying entrepreneurship and innovation.
Price describes the style of her original music as indie rock or indie pop and covers everything from David Bowie to Doja Cat.
“I started playing guitar when I was 10 and I have been singing for as long as I can remember,” she said.
Price said she began performing in the market because she enjoyed the sense of community and wanted to contribute.
“I love some good produce, there’s great food, it’s fun – there’s nothing I don’t support about the market,” she said.
The market also offers the Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) incentive, funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, DUFB doubles the value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits – also known as food stamps – when used for fresh, locally-grown produce.
SNAP funds are distributed monthly onto an Electronic Balance Transfer (EBT) card and can be used like a debit card at the market. The DUFB program matches SNAP EBT dollars, so you get twice the fruits and vegetables.
According to Degood, the market accepts up to $20 in EBT, meaning a SNAP benefit recipient can come with $20 in EBT and turn that into $40 at the market.
As of 2021, about 11% of Jackson County’s population are SNAP recipients.
“This is very helpful to people who qualify for SNAP benefits, which includes a lot of WCU students, said Degood.
Every Saturday, from April to October, the market is held from 9 a.m. to noon. The market is also held outdoors in November and December on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Check it out at 110 Railroad Ave. in Sylva.