The site for the Wayne County Farmers Market (WCFM) has an interesting and unique history. Jesup’s early residents remember an airstrip that paralleled the Southern Railroad tracks from 1919-1927, which was used by barnstorming stunt pilots; many remember taking rides as children. In the midst of that, 23 acres of land bordered by the railroad (on the south) and First Street (on the east) was purchased in 1924 by the City of Jesup and Wayne County from the Ben Milikin Company. The land was later divided.
Over time, the land was used for a wide range of things. During the Great Depression, in 1933, a large veteran Civilian Conservation Corps camp was erected, housing men in tents on the old fairgrounds. Their mess hall was inside the old prison barracks, which is today’s VFW building.
In the late 30s, the National Youth Administration brought a group of boys to the land, who built three buildings for shop training. The boys’ camp closed in the early 40s and was used as a POW camp during World War II; prisoners of war were brought in during the summer of ’43 and used for labor in the county’s lumber and pulpwood industries. The Columbia Naval Stores was also located on the site and burned in the late 40’s.
After the war, the POW’s were removed and the future of the property became a hot topic among city officials (along with rental rates). One building was rented to Ed Bailey and another to the Tempest Manufacturing Company, for $30 apiece. The largest building was rented to the County School Superintendent for $35.
The buildings were later purchased by Waynline Furniture of Georgia, which became the basis for the furniture manufacturing plant; the building to the right of today’s market site was known as the “Corn Market,” which, for a time, was also used by Waynline as part of the manufacturing plant.
In 1956, Wayne County was one of six counties to receive a rural development grant to pursue a farmers market. At some point after that, the Georgia Department of Agriculture made the site one of several State Farmers Market sites, but the year that closed is inconclusive.
Discussions for the present day market began in 2012, when community leaders, farmers, local policy makers and Cooperative Extension Agents began meeting to discuss the market’s possibility. Last year, seven of them were appointed to an official Executive Board. [insert link here to the Executive Board bios] Upon request of the board, the Georgia Department of Agriculture deeded the property to the City of Jesup in 2014. Then, the city received a USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) grant for 2014-2015, which has helped fund continued promotion and management of operations at the market.
Source: Drury, Mary Lou. (1971) The Special 25th Anniversary Issue. The Waynliners.