WEST JEFFERSON-West Jefferson’s John Smyre is enjoying retirement. Again.
The former manager of the Ashe County Farmer’s Market was recognized by the town of West Jefferson for his more than six years of service at the town’s Board of Aldermen meeting on April 4.
West Jefferson Mayer Dale Baldwin presented Smyre with a plaque and gift card.
“John put so much into this over the years,” Baldwin said. “The Farmer’s Market wouldn’t be the draw it is without him.”
In previous interviews, Smyre said he was simply looking for a way to stay busy after retiring from Fayetteville-based Piedmont Natural Gas when he decided to take on the Farmer’s Market challenge in 2009.
“Coming out of the recession I guess it wasn’t the best time to jump into something like the market but it was a good viable operation then and thankfully it still is today,” Smyre said. “We’ve gone through a lot of changes with the economy but I think there is always going to be a place for a community farmers’ market.”
During his tenure, Smyre said Saturday market attendance grew from an average of 300 people to somewhere north of 500 each Saturday. The number of craft vendors and total revenue has grown, he said, and he’s seen several vendors blossom, moving from vendor booths to storefronts, including Rose Mountain Butcher Shoppe.
He’s been succeeded this year by Lori Goodman, who said she’s proud to build on the legacy left by Smyre.
Among the biggest changes? The Farmers Market announced in March that it will begin accepting produce vendors from bordering counties for the 2016 Market season; including Alleghany County, NC; Wilkes County, NC; Watauga County, NC; Johnson County, TN; and Grayson County, VA.
In years past, Market membership was limited to Ashe County residents only.
“Over the past few years, the Market has witnessed a decline in the number of produce vendors as farmers retire, a problem being faced on a national scale,” according to a release issued by the market. “In order for the Market to remain vibrant and to ensure ample supplies of the produce and other items market goers seek, a decision was made by the Board of Directors in March to open the Market to adjoining counties.”
Smyre said he believed the change was necessary and applauded the board for making the call to expand its vendor base.
“They’ll still be able to maintain the high produce quality that people expect from the Farmers Market, but it’ll allow them to carry a wider variety of produce and really extend the season for a lot of things,” Smyre said. “You’re talking about bringing up items from counties with longer growing seasons that what we see here on the mountain, and I think you’ll see people appreciate it.”
As for Smyre, he said he’ll continue to support the market but said he’s looking forward to stepping away from the time commitment it represented during the spring and summer months.
“I think we’ll end up doing some of the traveling we’ve been putting off a little bit,” Smyre said. “But you’ll still see us drop by from time to time.”
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.