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Building on success focus of meeting

It’s mid-January on the calendar, but in the minds of Ironton Farmers Market vendors and organizers it’s already springtime.

More than 30 people — mostly past and future vendors — attended a meeting on Thursday at the Ironton City Center to discuss the pros and cons of a successful inaugural market season in 2013.

“Getting people accustomed is the hard part,” Margaret Reid, apiary owner and market vendor, said. “After last year, people are accustomed now and this year should be bigger and better.”

Market manager Sam Heighton gave vendors the chance to voice their complaints with last year’s market.

“I want to hear any complaints and concerns you may have,” Heighton told the vendors. “I’m not doing it to cause any friction, but to fix anything so we can make it even better.”

Processed items being sold in one state but processed in another was one concern.

“Buyers can travel freely but vendors have to pass an inspection,” Reid said. “That’s only for processed foods. Produce in its original form can be sold across state lines.”

Heighton said that issue will be discussed in-depth at the next meeting.

The lack of on-site restrooms was another concern. Several vendors expressed appreciation for the hospitality of downtown businesses that allow vendors to use their restrooms, but those businesses aren’t always open during market hours.

“We can probably take care of that,” Heighton said.

During two weekends last year — the Rally on the River and Gus Macker — the market was relocated to the vacant lot next to Central Hardware. The same will happen this year but some vendors suggested finding an alternative spot.

“I don’t want to go back where we went last year,” Tammy Hanshaw, market vendor, said. “Nobody knew we were there and there was no parking.”

The vacant lot next to Charlie’s Tires was the only option voiced and that issue will also be revisited at the next meeting.

Lawrence County Deputy Auditor Mark Monnig discussed proper labeling and weighing of prepackaged items and Laura Brown of the Ironton Health Department discussed refrigerators being brought in to safely sell eggs.

Other suggestions made at the meeting were:

• Offering heavy duty bags for carrying corn.

• Giving reusable cloth bags to customers.

• Supplying matching aprons to vendors.

• Having a chef do a “know and grow” for lesser-used produce like eggplant.

• Selling chances for a free basket of produce.

Watermelon will join corn, tomatoes and apples on the list of featured produce and Mike Pearson suggested getting the area’s youth involved.

“I’d like to know where the kids are,” Pearson said. “There has got to be some kids somewhere who grow something.”

Reid said produce from Future Farmers of America students in Lawrence County are “selling like crazy” but they have buyers and don’t have to come to town.

The first farmers market of 2014 will be Friday, May 2, and will offer open market, locally grown and homegrown produce. The next organizational meeting has been set for 5 p.m. Monday, March 24, at the city center in Ironton. A list of vendors, market rules and regulations, venue layout and contact information is available at www.irontonfarmersmarket.com.