By AMBER POMPA
With the arrival of warmer weather, farmers and backyard gardeners in the region begin planning and working toward their spring crop, some of which will find its way into the stomachs of residents via the Greenville Farmers Market.
Onions, beets, broccoli and turnips are some of the first cool weather crops to be harvested in the spring and will surely be a staple at some of the first few market days.
Other items that will be available at the opening of the market include radishes, several varieties of lettuce, swiss chard, kale, cabbage leaves, several varieties of onion, collards, a variety of herbs, blue and brown eggs, pie, bread and honey. There is also the possibility of beets, snow peas and sugar snap peas, though those items have not been confirmed yet.
Non-food items will include goat milk soap, body lotion, pecan shell smokers, cookbooks and vegetable transplants.
Later in the season tomatoes, green beans, several varieties of squash, okra, bell and jalapeño peppers, cucumber southern peas and possibly artichokes will find their way to the market, increasing the variety offered this year.
Many of the favored vendors have committed to return for this year’s market, including The Bee Charmer, Peter’s Vegetable Garden, the Weiland Community Co-op, Good Earth Organic Farm, Just Pie, Sunrise Meadows Ranch, Wallace Farms and Winestone Farms.
The market, in its second year under the leadership of the Friends of the Farmers Market, is set to open April 14 and will close for the season on July 28. The market will be closed May 5 due to a conflict with the DrugFree Greenville Walkathon.
This year’s hours of operation, in which all vendors are approved prior to selling and all produce is locally grown or locally produced within 100 miles, will be from 8 to 11 a.m. This is due to the fact that last season many of the vendors had run out of produce before noon.
Another change taking place this year is the stall fee for vendors.
“To encourage participation of new approved vendors, the stall fee has been waived for the month of April and has been reduced to $5 per Saturday per space for the remainder of the season,” said Joy Chennault, one of three founders of the Friends of the Farmers Market.
While there have been changes made to the Farmers Market this year, there are still things that the Friends found successful last year that will be carried over into the new season. No re-selling of produce will be allowed during the market’s hours of operation and all vendors will be pre-approved to sell on Friends-sponsored market days. This is done to ensure that all produce is grown or produced locally within 100 miles of the market.
“The customers loved the fact that they knew where their food was coming from,” said Sharleen Allen, one of the founders of the Friends of the Farmers Market. “Our vendors and customers really thought it was a unique thing and that’s one of the reasons they came every Saturday.”
Demonstrations performed by local artisans, such as pottery, spinning fibers and showing children how to do square-foot gardening, will continue into the new season, as well.
“We’re going to try to continue that because we want to have an undertone of education in our Farmers Market,” said Allen.
In addition to the changes in the actual market, this year the Friends have created an email newsletter that updates customers weekly on what will be available each Saturday, in addition to special events. To sign up for the newsletter, email a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those seeking more information on becoming a vendor or volunteer, the Friends of the Farmers Market’s monthly meetings are a great opportunity to learn more. The meetings are held the last Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the W. Walworth Harrison Public Library.
“These meetings aren’t just for current or future vendors,” said Allen. “They’re for customers, volunteers or anyone wanting to be involved in what our market ends up being. There are no age limits for participants. We want to encourage kids to become involved as well.”
Chennault and Allen are getting geared up to find more vendors for this year’s market in order to ensure a good variety of produce to Greenville residents.
“Last year was difficult because it was an unproven market,” said Allen. “We didn’t know what to expect. Our vendors didn’t know what to expect either, but this year is different. We’ve got a great group of vendors and have more community involvement and awareness. This year’s going to be good.”