Farmers market's new manager off to bustling start

Jun. 04, 2014 @ 07:27 AM

Before the start of the Sawmills Farmers Market on Tuesday, Misty Auton raced across the grassy field, putting up signs, talking to vendors, marking vendor spots, putting up tables and struggling with setting up a large tent. She even stopped at one vendor to purchase a jar of homemade pear jelly.

"That's what I had for breakfast this morning - toast with pear jelly," Auton said with a smile.

All the hard work is part of her training as the new manager for the Sawmills Farmers Market. Auton, still a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate student studying for her master's degree in public administration, took on the full-time position last month and has been vigorously training ever since.

Auton said she worked as the floor supervisor for the Lenoir McDonald’s before taking on the new position and that she learned how to deal with multiple activities happening all at once. She said her first day last month was a joy and went smoothly.

“It was wonderful. I was learning, asking a lot of questions. ‘Can I do this? Can I do that? Why don’t we do this?’ It was like any first day on a job. I was more the observer,” Auton said.

Auton enjoyed the atmosphere at the farmers market with the “variety of work” to be done, she said.

“It was a little bit of everything, you know, setting up, interacting with customers, doing the EBT transactions, working with kids, talking with people, that’s probably my favorite part,” Auton said.

Auton already has been hard at work researching, introducing herself to contacts and searching for grants to help the market. She said that the market struggles with diversity and promotion.

“I’m going to try to get a grant with the Farmers Market Promotion Program (from the U.S. Department of Agriculture) because we’re in desperate need of that,” Auton said.

Auton has big plans in store but said it will take some time to pull everything together.

“I’d like to get some meat products, not just vegetables and fruits, which is mostly what we have,” Auton said. “I’d like to get some entertainment. I’d love to get the (Caldwell) Arts Council if they wanted to do a display or an artist where they do the Kid’s Corner. I know we have a lot of art here, so that’s a good combination. But, this is all something I have to work on.”