As the Genoa Future Farmers of America Farmer’s Market opened for business Tuesday, vendor Aliza Greenberg of Toledo expressed confidence.
“It will grow. It will,” she said as she spread a selection of fine, homemade jewelry across a table fronting Main Street at the Genoa Town Hall. A cool breeze blew across the lawn welcomed by sunshine and mild spring temperatures in the high 60s.
“I was here before. I love it. I deal with all natural things. I don’t deal in garbage,” the silver-haired woman with Slavic accent said. “I’m a little more expensive, but they’re worth it.”
Genoa High School freshman, Madison Sheahan
arranges flowers grown by the Genoa FFA Farmer's
It wasn’t a flashy opening – one vendor and a slew of perennials grown at the Genoa Future Farmer’s of America greenhouse. But the teens organizing the event this season – Genoa High School students Rachel Weber and Madison Sheahan - seemed satisfied at the first steps they’d taken as entrepreneurs.
“We have some others who say they will be here in coming weeks,” said Weber, a junior. They also figure the response will surge as people realize what they are doing downtown from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. every Tuesday.
The duo hopes to heighten awareness by putting farmer’s market signage around town and spreading the word to local entertainment venues. Late May school activities put a bit of a crimp on their time. Yet, with summer coming, they see a chance to channel their energies into the project full force.
Their plans include setting up farmer’s market website and Twitter account.
In the mean time, the girls are teaming up and dividing the work to use their skills to the project’s best advantage.
“Take me,” Rachel said. “I just hate talking on the phone. Madison has been making a lot of those calls and talking to people. I’m handling the emails and got the letters out.”
It was a little more than a month ago that the two teenagers, along with Genoa ag teachers Dave Stacklin and Luke Ryan, agreed to take on the venture.
Genoa’s original farmer’s market came onto the scene more than five years ago but struggled in recent years. Some blamed lack of business community involvement. The main organizers also closed their businesses downtown and moved on.
The girls will use the experience as a project for the district, state and, hopefully, national competition. In coming weeks, they’ll speak to Genoa Village Council to outline their plan of action as well as visit other markets to see how they can improve their product.
And as far as Laura Sheahan, Madison’s mother, is concerned, this experience is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for the girls.
“This FFA program has converted me,” she said after unloading a truckload of flowers and helping arrange them among the tables. “I feel like this gives the kids so much confidence.”
Laura Sheahan recalled the recent Genoa FFA banquet attended by her family.
“There were so many students standing, telling how this program changed their life. For me to see that was unbelievable. There was so much involvement, from Mr. Ryan and Mr. Stacklin. They are there with the kids all the way, teaching them, showing them, guiding them.”
Part of the teachers’ guidance in this project is leading the way on vendor’s contracts, bank accounts and other paperwork.
The Genoa FFA program has a subtle undertone that emulates the premise that work ethic pays off, Laura Sheahan noted.
“It’s teaching the kids something many times that your typical classroom doesn’t teach them,” she added.