Former Newnan farmers market to expand in PTC
by Celia Shortt
The managers of Our Community Farmers Market are looking to expand their market in a neighboring city as they are no longer allowed to operate in Newnan.
“We are looking at opening in Peachtree City,” said OCFM Manager Matthew Tucker.
The market is managed by Tucker and his partner and co-manager Marianne Pizzitola. Last season, it operated in the parking lot next to the historic train depot on East Broad Street in downtown Newnan. Recently, OCFM requested to move the operation to the Court Square.
At its Jan. 14 meeting, the Newnan City Council unanimously voted to find a new vendor for a downtown farmers market.
“It didn’t appear the present vendor was going to provide what the council wanted — a pure food market,” said Newnan Mayor Keith Brady. “I don’t have an issue with her (Pizzitola and OCFM) personally. It’s just about the produce.”
Tucker and Pizzitola are disappointed with the council’s decision and feel they have been unfairly represented throughout the process.
“We were not a vendor,” said Tucker. “We had nothing in writing from the city. We just had permission to use the parking lot.”
“I have a Coweta County business license and insurance policy,” he added.
Tucker and Pizzitola started their market in Sharpsburg and brought it to eastern Coweta because they felt the area wasn’t well recognized. In their first season there, they knew they needed to expand and began looking in Newnan.
In coming to Newnan, they talked to city Business Development Director Hasco W Craver IV to help facilitate bringing the market to Newnan.
In October 2012, Craver gave Tucker and Pizzitola a list of possible locations for their market. They felt the city parking lot by the train depot was a good start. They were, however, unable to hold the market on Saturdays due to a conflict with Main Street’s monthly Newnan Market Days events. They settled on holding it on Wednesdays due to both Craver’s recommendation and a study showing there was more traffic there on Wednesdays than Saturdays.
“Our Community Farmers Market … wanted to move to a location with a greater population density,” said Craver of the initial agreement with OFCN. “The Main Street Newnan program was immediately supportive of the program and worked with Our Community Farmers Market, the City of Newnan and the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society to find a suitable location, day and time.”
Since Saturday is a very popular day for farmers markets and they were unable to hold their market in Newnan on that day, they found a Saturday location in Peachtree City on MacDuff Crossing.
Tucker and Pizzitola wanted to open in April but were unable to get the approval from city officials to start operation until the second week of that month and had to open in May. Due to the late start, Tucker and Pizzitola found it difficult to find vendors for the Wednesday market.
“Hasco said from the beginning it would be a partnership with Main Street,” said Tucker. “It didn’t really happen.”
Tucker and Pizzitola said the late start and lack of promised advertising were evidence for the partnership not working. According to them, through Main Street they were supposed to receive Facebook advertising, and text message and print advertising.
Pizzitola mentioned they received very little by Main Street on Facebook and no text messaging. What print advertising they did receive contained incorrect information and made it seem as if they were a part of Main Street.
She said she and Tucker received applications from people wanting to be part of Main Street Newnan and thinking they were in charge of it.
At the conclusion of their 2013 season, Tucker and Pizzitola asked if they could relocate their market to the square rather than the city parking lot and hold the market on Saturdays, too. The request was brought before the council at the Dec. 17 meeting and continued at the Jan. 14 meeting, where the council voted to find a new vendor.
“A market that was not solely vending produce would directly conflict with the monthly Market Day event held on the courthouse square each month on Saturday,” said Craver. “In addition, I believe the location at the Depot was the most fitting for a farmers market due to ample parking and ease of navigating to/from the site. The Depot location also gave the buying public a reason to visit an under-utilized part of downtown.”
“They were mean, and I don’t want to do business with mean people,” said Pizzitola.
Throughout their 2013 season, OCFM’s Saturday market in Peachtree City flourished, with more produce and agricultural items than in their Newnan market.
“Newnan clients would drive to Peachtree City and ask when will we be back in Newnan,” said Pizzitola. “Matt and I enjoy the farmers (in Newnan) and that’s the hard part.”
“It was fun to meet people,” added Tucker.
According to Tucker, OCFM’s next step is to open for a second day in Peachtree City.
Since Newnan no longer has a downtown farmers market, Brady tasked Craver and his team to find a new vendor.
“I have contacted a few colleagues at the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Tourism Division as well as the Georgia Made/Georgia Grown Collation and asked for assistance with securing a vendor,” said Craver. “Additionally, I have reached out to our friends at Coweta County to gauge their interest in hosting the county’s Wednesday market in the Depot lot instead of its traditional location along Temple Avenue.”