{gallery}features/5corners/:300:220:1:2{/gallery}The Five Corners Farmers' Market in downtown Essex Junction is a bustling market in its first year. The Farmers' Market was created from an Essex Junction Revitalization project that has the purpose of creating vitality, business and community excitement in our historic downtown.  During a community forum in February 2010 a Farmers’ Market was the number one voted event residents wanted to support in the Downtown.  During this same meeting three individuals agreed to begin the process with intentions of opening a Market in the spring of 2011.  However, after meeting with and receiving advice from Sue Johnson of NOFA-VT we agreed their grant was an opportunity we could not pass on.  We reached out to the broader community via online survey and Town Meeting Day to ascertain the support, type of product wanted and days of the week residents would shop.  With only a few short months to plan we used social media, Front Porch Forum and the Downtown Essex Junction Facebook page, to entice over 15 volunteers to formulate and launch the Market.  The diverse skill sets of the volunteers attributed not only to the ability to launch so quickly, but also to the success of our market.  Our dedicated volunteers include a marketing director, chef, small business owner, former farmers’ market vendor and manager, several craftsman, organizer and many driven Type A personalities.  During our first meeting we formed four sub-committees each with a distinct purpose: Vendor Relations, Marketing, Market Day Management and Business Administration.  By this time one of the original volunteers had applied for the grant and we were anxiously awaiting the decision.  In the meantime, we were full force ahead with the plans.  Our next survey was to 100+ vendors seeking their availability and desire to attend a market in Downtown Essex Junction.  The initial response was limited but our Vendor Committee persevered and mailed letters, called or personally visited many of those same 100+ vendors.

While the Vendor committee was seeking vendors, the other committees worked to gain the support of the Village and the local businesses.  We worked closely with the Village Trustees and Village Manager to find a suitable location, agree to signage allowances and other contractual issues.  The sign information from NOFA-VT was an excellent resource when we tackled this discussion with the Village representatives.  Our Marketing committee personally met with all surrounding small business owners to discuss the Market and their potential increase in business with the hopes of gaining their support of our location – a Downtown street that would be closed all day resulting in the loss of 19 precious parking spaces.  To squash the myth that Essex Junction has no parking, we created a parking map, clearly mark all available parking lots and urge residents to walk, bike or stroll to the Market.

When we received word of the grant award, we realized, we might actually pull this Market off.  Our strategy for the use of the funds was to attract vendors and customers; and buy all supplies that would be needed at the Market for many years to come.  As a final enticement to vendors we offered a no fee market to any Vendor that would commit to the season.  We created posters and worked with the local newspaper on advertisement we could afford.  Finally, we built all 5 “Market Today” signs and 8 “Market Parking” signs while purchasing the market day supplies.  We hoarded some money to ensure we could provide coupons to seniors and our local food pantry.

So what have we accomplished?

Our goal at the outset was to attract 5-7 vendors with at least 2 being produce.  We have 27 season vendors, a long list of day vendors, and 6 produce vendors.  We post on Facebook each Wednesday the produce that will be sold at the Market.  We continue to collaborate with the small business owners inviting them to purchase the evening’s remaining produce and beef and promote their business at our Market via signage and raffles.   One business owner is donating the use of their space for a localvore dinner with all proceeds benefitting the Market.  We have upwards of 500 people visiting our Market weekly with the Volunteers - including those who sign up each week to “work” the Market - tirelessly running, promoting and enjoying the Market.

Each Friday when we are exhausted, we are reenergized by comments like these:

“You are doing such a great job with the Essex Community Farmer's Market - enjoyed it again this past week. All of your efforts are greatly appreciated!” –Customer

“Congrats and thanks to all involved for a tremendous opening day on the 18th - what a treasured asset you have created for this community.” –Customer

“The Farmers Market is the talk of the town. People I know all ask each other if they are going, or have been.” -Customer
“I really want to thank you for all you have done, it is amazing to me for a start up market the success you have created. I am not saying this for any reason but to commend u for the efforts it is truly amazing to me.” —Vendor

Please visit the Five Corners Farmers’ Market and see our success.  Our 30 vendors feature local organic and conventional produce, baked goods, grass-fed beef, wines, cheeses, honey, perennials, sauces, breads, maple products, crafts and much more. Located in the heart of downtown Essex Junction on Lincoln Place each Friday from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. More information about the Market, it's vendors, events and location is at www.5CornersFarmersMarket.com.