The Jackson County Farmers’ market was founded in September of 2000 by Karen White, Johnny White, and Christy Bredenkamp. Then Western Carolina University nutritionist, Karen White, took initiative and sent out a memo when she noticed a need for a farmers market. Though not officially titled, Karen White acted as Jackson County Farmers Market’s first manager. The first market took place in downtown Sylva off Mill Street, where the market still sets up today. Karen remained in this position for seven years, until she retired in 2007 and Susannah Patty took over as official market manager.
During the market’s first year, our founding vendors consisted of the White family, Christy Bredenkamp, the Arps family, John Beckman, Steve Whyman, Neil Dawson, and a few others. These vendors built a foundation for our market with a selection of nursery plants, apples, watermelon, corn, and other local produce. Within the next year, other products began to emerge in our market, such as skincare from long-time vendor Kathy Calabrese of Kathy’s Garden. Kathy still vends at the market today!
In the first five years of the Jackson County Farmers Market, we had anywhere from five to ten booths each Saturday. At this time, the market bylaws hadn’t yet been written, nor were there vendor fees in place. The only rule for vendors was to “Sell what you grow!”. A weekly donation basket was passed around each Saturday until 2009. It was in 2009, under Susannah Patty’s management, that the vendor fee of $15 per booth was enforced.
During her time as Manager of JCFM, Susannah Patty also helped to develop our first market logo. With the help of Jenny McPherson, she developed the Market’s first set of written guidelines. When Susannah retired the position in 2010, Jenny McPherson took over as market manager. By this time, there were around 20-30 vendors at the market each Saturday. Under Jenny’s management, JCFM started operating year-round and opened its first winter market in 2011. Winter markets were first held in the First Methodist Church parking lot, and now take place in our year-round Mill street spot downtown.
Jenny also helped to establish our first board of directors and incorporation in late 2012. In 2013, we began to accept SNAP and EBT. This prompted our farmer-to-crafter ratio of 60% farmers and 40% crafters. After diligently acting as JCFM manager, Jenny stepped down in 2016. Yvonne Scott took over from 2016-2017, and Lisa McBride took over that year. During her years, Lisa worked hard to update the market. She handed off the management position to a local vendor and artist named Doug Degood, who managed the market from 2022 to 2023.
In 2022, a local musician and WCU business student named Lilah Price approached Doug about incorporating live music into the market atmosphere. Doug took her up on her offer and in Spring of 2022, Lilah became the Market’s resident musician. At the time, she was finishing her degree at WCU with a major in Entrepreneurship and a minor in Classical Voice. When the winter months became too cold for Lilah to play her guitar and sing outside, she began shadowing Doug from a business minded-perspective, looking to contribute new ideas to the market. When Doug stepped down from his management position in 2023, he offered it to Lilah, who happily obliged. After she graduated with her Entrepreneurship degree in May, Lilah took over as acting Farmers Market Manager, and is our current manager.
While Lilah is no longer able to act as both resident musician and manager, she has implemented a rotation of local musicians during warmer months. Local Western North Carolina musicians from Cullowhee, Sylva, Asheville, Franklin, and Mars Hill come to play at the Jackson County Farmers Market. They make some extra cash, take home a haul of local groceries (graciously donated by vendors), and connect with other artists and entrepreneurs.
My, how our market has grown! As has its diverse community of farmers, entrepreneurs, crafters, artists, musicians, and local residents. Come join us, every Saturday in the Bridge Park parking lot. The Jackson County Farmers Market is currently running on
Winter Market Hours (Nov-March), which are from 10am-1pm.
(April-Oct) , the market runs from 9am-12pm.