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City Market undergoing changes

In 2013, the Oxford Board of Aldermen decided to go into the farmers’ market business to help promote local farmers, sustainable living and bring fresh produce to more of its residents.

The aldermen spent about $30,000 to start the market, which was held on Tuesdays from 3 to 6:30 p.m. However, the goal was for the market to eventually become self-sufficient, and leave out from under the umbrella of the city government.

Three years later, the Oxford City Market has done just that and by the end of the fiscal year, the market will merge with the Oxford Community Market, a nonprofit organization with a volunteer board of directors.

The new Oxford Community Market will take over on Oct. 1, if it has received nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service by that date. The city’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 and that’s when the funding for the market will end.

The new board of directors for the Community Market is headed up by John Winkle. The Oxford Community Market will be funded through grants, promotional sales, gifts and vendor fees.

“The new board has been working through a set of required procedures since last October to obtain that status (nonprofit) by filing documents with the state of Mississippi and the IRS,” Winkle said.

Additional members of the new board include: Sunny Young Baker, John T Edge, Corbin Evans, Joel Miller, Derek Brown, Caroline McIntosh and Anne McCauley.

New program

Late in the 2015 season, the City Market moved from its original location on West Oxford Loop to the new community pavilion, recently named @The Armory by the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council that manages the pavilion.

While the Community Market won’t take over the City Market until October, the Community Market already has started a new farmers’ market that is held on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the pavilion.

Board member Sunny Baker said the Tuesday market will continue once it’s under the Community Market management, giving farmers two days a week to sell their produce and homemade products.

The Community Market will assume the acronym OXCM, which is currently used by the Oxford City Market, to help make a smooth transition for the community.

When the City Market was formed, Tuesday was chosen as market day as to not compete with the Mid-Town Farmers’ Market, which is held from 8 a.m. To 11 a.m. On Saturdays and 8 to 1 p.m. On Wednesdays at the Mid-Town Shopping Center.

However, Baker said the Mid-Town market has been invited to move to the pavilion, and that by having the Community Market start and end a little later on Saturdays, there shouldn’t be a conflict.

Board member Sunny Baker said the Tuesday market will continue once it’s under the Community Market management, giving farmers two days a week to sell their produce and homemade products.

The Community Market will assume the acronym OXCM, which is currently used by the Oxford City Market, to help make a smooth transition for the community.

When the City Market was formed, Tuesday was chosen as market day as to not compete with the Mid-Town Farmers’ Market, which is held from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturdays and 8 to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays at the Mid-Town Shopping Center.

However, Baker said the Mid-Town market has been invited to move to the pavilion, and that by having the Community Market start and end a little later on Saturdays, there shouldn’t be a conflict.

“We’re targeting a different audience and it gives farmers a chance to do both markets if they choose,” she said. “When the Mid-Town Market ends, they can move over to the Community Market for another two hours and it gives them time to sell more goods. There’s more than enough food to go around and be sold.”

Representatives from the Mid-Town Farmers’ Market could not be reached for comment.

The City Market is headed by director Betsy Chapman until October. Winkle said the Community Market cannot hire a director until it’s received its nonprofit status.

A common goal of the two markets is to increase the availability of fresh food for community members. The City Market accepts food stamps and through a match program sponsored by AARP, the market can match dollar for dollar, up to $10, when a customer uses a SNAP card.

“A primary goal of the Oxford Community Market is to target food insecurity in the Oxford area,” Winkle said, “so we will be continuing some programs of the City Market, while introducing new ones.”

Mobile markets

One of those programs could be the Oxford City Market’s new mobile market pilot program. The program started on June 8 at CB Webb apartments, one of the city’s public housing developments. Farmers from the market provide produce to Chapman and her volunteers to sell at the apartment complex from 3 to 6 on each Wednesday in June.

“The vendors give us their stuff on consignment with a list of prices,” Chapman said.

The city market worked with the staff at CB Webb, the University of Mississippi’s Office of Sustainability and United Way of Oxford and Lafayette County to start the mobile market. Chapman said the first mobile market served about 15 customers. On Wednesday, there had been 15 customers as of 5 p.m. with an hour left for the market.

“People have been really excited,” Chapman said. “We’re getting fresh produce to more people and getting the word out about the market on Tuesdays by providing them a sample of our bigger farmers’ market.”

Chapman and Ellen Olack, an American Vista Corp volunteer with the Office of Sustainability, handed out free tomato seeds and reusable shopping bags to those who stopped by the market. Children colored with markers while the adults shopped.

“Peaches and our green tomatoes have been the most popular today,” Olack said.

After the four mobile markets conclude at the end of March, Olack will review the data and the decision whether to hold the mobile market at another high-need, low-income area will be determined based on those findings. Food sales are recorded, including the time of day and what was sold to gain an insight as to the best hours for the market and the types of produce that are in the highest demand.

Leftover produce was donated last week to the Boys & Girls Club, and to The Pantry this week.