FORSYTH, Ga. — Every year, the Georgia Grown group invites its members to showcase and sell their products inside the Georgia Grown building at the fair.
Many of the artists and vendors felt the sting when the fair didn’t happen last year because of the pandemic. Dozens suffered, but some made it through to set up shop in 2021.
“My tree is a willow tree and primarily the roots are important. Deep roots give you a solid foundation,” said Jennifer Cochran.
Cochran didn’t anticipate how life would test that foundation. Her company is called Little Tree Apothecary; she makes scented candles with curly wicks and shiny rocks that sit on top. She also sells hand sanitizer and soap.
The entrepreneur says festivals are how she makes a living, and the Georgia Grown booth at the Georgia National Fair always rang up as a big opportunity.
“So, we just lost everything,” said Cochran.
“Those conversations were sad, those conversations were really sad,” said Happy Wyatt.
Wyatt is with Georgia Grown. She’s the one who had to call the vendors and let them know the pandemic robbed them of a big paycheck when the fair shut down.
“We did have Georgia Grown makers not able to make it. We've lost some great people that had to go back to a traditional-style job and that broke my heart,” said Wyatt.
In 2019, the year before the virus became part of our daily lives, the Georgia Grown booth pulled in $100,000 divided between about 75 members.
Jennifer Cochran was one of the members. When 2020 went down the drain, desperation forced the mother of two to rely on that root system and get creative.
“I did go and sit up at Fresh Market to sell hand sanitizer because I didn't have anywhere else to go. We had a website, but no way to tell people how to get to that website,” said Cochran.
She’ll be loud and clear at the fair this year, ready for a comeback. Just like strong timber in the ground, she found a way to pull through, sway in the wind and branch out until it died down.
“Everything smiled down and I'm still here,” said Cochran.
Happy Wyatt says they will have some changes this year in the barn to accommodate for COVID.
They can’t give out samples of food and the vendor area will be bigger so folks can socially distance while they shop. Kids also won’t be able to milk the famous cow that sits in the corner.