The city of Friendsville wants its residents to know they don’t have to drive miles into Maryville to get a taste of what a farmers market has to offer: With the creation of the Friendsville Community Market, it’s all right there in town square.
From 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday, farmers set up shop in the downtown area (West College Avenue) with their fresh greens, tomatoes and whatever else is ripe from the ground. They are joined by those who make fresh breads, fashion jewelry from metal or make leather goods. There is no cost to vendors to set up; the only requirement is to sign up on the Friendsville’s website, www.friendsville.city.
Kim Rogers, who serves as the city’s public relations coordinator, said on any given Saturday, there are between nine and 12 vendors. The market has been going now for a few weeks, delayed by COVID-19 like so many other public events. It’s going strong and plans are to keep it up through the end of September.
Melissa Tilley, of Tilley Acres Farm, said she is grateful for the chance to bring her wares to market. She and husband, Adam, provide fresh chicken and duck eggs, as well as Melissa’s homemade yeast breads, fresh-cut flowers, soaps and lip balms using beeswax from the family farm. The Tilleys even provide a predator-removal service to area farms; they tan the hides of the animals and sell them, too.
Tilley Acres is on Six Mile Road in Maryville, and the family farms their own 5 acres in addition to about 30 acres that belong to Adam’s grandparents. Melissa said the Friendsville Community Market fits them perfectly. They don’t have to commit to every weekend during the season and it costs nothing to participate.
“We are committed to at least two weekends per month,” she said. “This Saturday will be our third in June.”
The farmers hold down full-time jobs in addition to their responsibilities on the farm. They are assisted by their son, Chase.
They will have honey to sell once it is harvested. The Tilleys have 12 hives in various locations around the community. This past year was a tough one, Melissa said, noting they lost 14 of 17 hives.
Rogers said a market like this was started in Friendsville about two years ago, but participation dropped as the summer heat settled in. She is hopeful this year’s attempt will be sustainable. She’s gotten lots of positive feedback from vendors and shoppers.
From herbs to gun holsters
Vinegar Valley Farms, for instance, does a good business with its herbs, teas and balms, Rogers said. There is also a man, Terry Rutherford, who makes items like gun holsters, rifle slings, phone cases along with necklaces, bracelets and earrings from leather. He even makes some things out of footballs, she said.
Facial masks have become sought-after commodities, and there are makers who come to this market, Rogers said. It is the goal to have a variety of things, not just farmers market items, she said.
Two 13-year-old girls decided to join in the Saturday selling. They bake cupcakes under the business name Bee Orchid Bakery. Rogers said they sell out of their treats almost every week.
Need a bee trap or a dreamcatcher? Chances are, they will be for sale on a Saturday here in Friendsville.
“What people see one week will be different the next,” Rogers explained.
Two nearby businesses have certainly benefitted from the extra foot traffic downtown. Mom and Pops Cafe (operated by Gene and Cona Wallace) and Friendsville Barbershop are popular with market shoppers. Rogers said the weekly market is part of Friendsville’s effort to “rebuild the pride of our community.”
She said there are attempts to enforce ordinance codes, and letters are being sent out for rules that have been broken by property owners, like overgrown or dirty lots, stagnant water and other health and sanitation nuisances.
This is the only market the Tilleys participate in despite not living in Friendsville. Melissa said the experience has been a positive one for her family. The crowds might be small, but the connection with local people is rewarding, she said.
The population of Friendsville was listed as 890 according to the 2000 census and 913 in 2010.
“It is a nice little community and we love being a part of it,” Tilley said.