The Olney Farmers and Artists Market is the brainchild of Olney resident Janet Terry. Janet was inspired by her visits to the outstanding Farmers Market in Charleston, South Carolina. She had a vision to bring a quality farmers market to serve Olney. Her idea was presented to GOCA (Greater Olney Civic Association) in July 2007 and has grown into reality from there.
After The Olney Farmers Market, Inc. was established, the following organizational structure put into place:
The Olney Farmers Market, Inc., has an Executive Committee, Steering Committee, and an Advisory Committee.
Friends of the Olney Farmers and Artists Market is the charitable and educational arm of the Market. It is dedicated to serving the under-served members of the Olney area community. Our Market is on a mission to get our community healthy permanently, to fight childhood obesity, and to make sure customers in need are able to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at a low cost. In the past (and will do so in the future as well), we have sponsored fundraisers to raise money to help our neediest customers at the Market.
Customers who are unemployed or who have suffered financial setbacks are given vouchers that will double the amount of fresh produce they buy. In other words, if a customer in need pays the farmer $10 for fresh produce, the farmer would provide the customer with $20 worth instead. The Market reimburses the farmer for the amount the customer did not pay.
We also use donations to support educational programs in our Children's Tent. We buy fresh produce for the tent, so that children can not only learn and taste it, they also use the produce to make collages. Some funds go towards supplying books and educational puzzles. The Market sponsors a special Children's Day. The activities provided on that day include having a nutritionist take the children shopping around the Market; and then teaching them how to make their own healthy lunches using the produce they bought.
Some customers who come to the Market have been so much in need that we simply take them shopping to the farmers ourselves and foot the bill, using funds received from our fundraisers and from other donations.
The Market provides space to non-profit community organizations – and provides the necessary matériels (e.g., tents, tables, chairs). Some of the non-profits which participated in 2014 include representatives from the non-profit Jeremy's Run (which raises money to help teens struggling with drug addiction), the Race for the Cure, and Relay for Life. Olney Home for Life has also sent representatives to inform our customers of the services it provides (e.g., helping seniors to remain in their homes, instead of having to move into assisted living). The Washington Area Rescue League, the Boys and Girls Club of Olney, and the local Boy Scout troop have also been at many of our Market days.
Manna Food Center, the local food bank, is also represented each week. Their volunteers assist in collecting tens of thousands of pounds of fresh produce that are sent directly to the food bank for distribution to hungry citizens in Montgomery County, Maryland.
Market funds go to support homemakers who are trying to start businesses. As long as the local health department approves, we allow these homemakers to sell brownies, cookies and certain cakes from one of our tents. We also supply the tables and the health department set-up.
We use funds for our chef's tent, where we offer healthy recipes and hands-on learning for our community. Some of the foremost chefs in our area have donated their time (and will continue to do so) to prepare healthy dishes made from produce provided by the Market farmers. Recipes are then made available to the public via the Market website.
Funds are also available for fitness activities in our “Be Fit, Be Well” tent. We ask fitness and health experts from the DC metropolitan area to donate a few hours of their time to showing our community how to become healthier. These activities have included yoga, zumba, acupuncture, jump-roping and similar kinds of exercises.
The Market has guidelines in place to ensure that funds that are raised go toward helping the neediest members of the community. Our board members interview representatives for every community organization that applies for a community tent, before accepting them.
Beginning with the 2015 season, the Market is partnering with Manna to support its New Countywide Food Rescue Program. The goal is to work to ensure no one in the county goes hungry. To do that, the Market has been asked to identify caterers and restaurants in our part of the county that would be willing to donate their excess food to hungry people. Using a computer program, Manna will then be able to match the caterers and restaurants with hungry people and hunger organizations in the county.
We always have need for additional tents, to be used by citizens trying to establish small businesses and other activities that help people in the community, and for organizations to promote activities that benefit groups that fight cancer, drug addiction and similar vital health issues.
Our Music tent is provided free of charge as a way to help struggling musicians looking for an outlet in our community. We also encourage students to test their talents at the Market. We provide the sound system and set-up. All they have to do is show up and play.
Tables and chairs are provided for customers who want to relax at the Market and listen to the music, enjoy food purchased from our vendors, and watch our chef demonstrations. In addition, we set up umbrellas on the hottest days of summer for our customers to provide some relief from the sun, especially for those customers without air conditioning in their homes. Cooling tents and water sprinklers are also provided by the Market.
We are also community partners with GrowingSoul (Sustainable Opportunities for Universal Learning), which is is dedicated to educating the public about the vital role of human interdependence and reciprocity in developing and promoting a ZERO WASTE sustainable food system. We provide space for growingSOUL volunteers and our customers to engage in hands-on opportunities where they can share their knowledge, become lifelong learners and connectors, spread the word, and be part of growing a movement, not apart from it.
Other partnerships developed over the years have been with: Medstar Montgomery General hospital – assisting the hospital nutritionists to secure fresh produce for patients, instead of highly processed foods; and Sandy Spring Museum – working with the Museum to develop a variety of educational programs and activities for children.
The dedicated committee members of The Olney Farmers and Artists Market are:
Janet Terry, President
John Harbison, Vice President
Bobbi Espinoza, Treasurer
Travis Moore, Secretary
Food Vendors/Chef Demo
Children's Tent Coordinator
Be Fit Be Well Tent
Manna Food Center
Sandy Spring Museum
Janet and all of her committee members are very proud of their efforts and look forward to serving Olney for many, many years to come!