SWANTON - Swanton is joining several other Fulton County communities that hope a weekly farmers' market will give a boost to their downtown businesses.
"We want to get people walking around," said Neil Toeppe, chief of the Swanton Chamber of Commerce, which in cooperation with the village has organized the event for Saturdays starting June 5 and ending Oct. 16.
"I've actually been working on it for about three years, planning on it and getting people involved," Mayor James Bushong said.
The concept, according to a city announcement, was to give local people a chance to offer homegrown produce and hand-made merchandise for sale to other local residents - people they knew. Later, shoppers could enjoy a family lunch or treat.
The market will be set up in a public parking lot next to the chamber of commerce office at Main Street and Broadway and run from 9 a.m. to noon. Produce or wares must be at least 90 percent grown or made by the sellers.
"It's going to be a community event," Mr. Bushong said.
As of last week, about a half-dozen vendors had applied for space, with baked goods and jewelry among their offerings. No vegetable growers had signed up, and the mayor said some of the local farmers would be contacted.
Part of the challenge, Mr. Toeppe said, is that vegetable and flower gardeners in the village may grow enough to sell from stands in their front yards, but don't have the vendor licenses and liability insurance needed to participate in a public market. The chamber is offering assistance with the necessary applications, he said.
The Swanton Uptown Business Association, a subgroup of the chamber comprising downtown merchants, is planning a series of Saturday events that will start later in the mornings, so as to dovetail with the end of market hours, Mr. Toeppe said. Such events are likely to include a tractor show and a children's carnival-style "bounce" attraction, he said.
The farmers' market is part of the chamber's on-going effort to promote business in downtown Swanton, the chamber director said.
Three years ago, Mr. Toeppe noted, it coordinated a flower-planting campaign along a quarter mile of Main Street to beautify the corridor. Seven businesses have set up along Main since March, 2009, he said, leaving the village with just "one or two" vacant storefronts.
Making downtown Swanton attractive and vibrant is especially important now because Main Street will soon become the detour route for Hallett Avenue while the latter's bridge over the Norfolk Southern railroad is built, Mr. Toeppe said.
Once the bridge opens, though, traffic on Main could plunge as motorists use the delay-free route, so they'll need positive memories of Main to keep visiting downtown, he said.
Archbold, Delta, and Fayette all have farmers' markets, but they aren't on the same days or times as Swanton's, Mr. Toeppe said.
Delta inaugurated its Tuesday evening markets last week, while Archbold's Thursday markets will start in July.
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