Farm Credit Farmers Market discussion

Wayne County Extension Director Kevin Johnson and Jessica Strickland, Extension horticulturist, update Wayne County commissioners on the Farm Credit Farmers Market that will open April 11.

“I may not even raise a garden this year,” Wayne County Commissioner Bill Pate said.

Pate made his comment Tuesday morning after an update on the Farm Credit Farmers Market that will open on April 11.

It will be the market’s first full year of operation.

The market didn’t open until June of last year as the county waited on the building to be completed, and it closed early in September because of Hurricane Florence.

The market had eight vendors during its first year, a mixture of full and part time, Jessica Strickland, Extension Service horticulturalist, told commissioners during their Tuesday morning session. Four full-time ones are returning.

“We are not going to turn anybody away,” Extension Director Kevin Johnson said. “Even if we fill it up, we will put a tent up out there in the parking lot.”

So far, the market, which is located behind the Maxwell Center on Wayne Memorial Drive, has received 18 vendor applications.

Most are for produce, but some are looking at selling meat, pork products that they raised on their farm, Strickland said. About nine or 10 want to be full-time vendors, she said.

Some are trying to venture into cut flowers, honey and eggs, so there is a mixture of products, Strickland said.

“So, we are looking at a fuller farmers market this year,” she said. “We expanded it this year so that if we have the space available that somebody with a craft could come in and sell, but we will always give the priority to farmer, a grower first, for the spaces,” she said. “But the crafts will be good. We have a couple interested that they could tie in when the season starts to slow down on in October and November to keep the market full.”

“We are actually utilizing the farmers market (building) all the time, even in the wintertime,” Johnson said. “Even though it is not open as a farmers market, we have 4-H clubs meeting out there, including our shooting sports.

“So, they are shooting bows and arrows out there. The beekeepers have been making beehives out there. We’ve had garden workshops out there. It’s been a good environment for us whereas our offices in the Maxwell Center wouldn’t work.”

Pate said he was glad to see the building getting so much use because there had been concerns about it sitting empty.

Vendors will pay a $25 annual fee and then $5-a-day rental space fee for every day they set up at the market — the same as last year.

The market will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

Operating on back-to-back days allows vendors to keep their displays in place and just replace the perishable produce as needed, Strickland said.

Also planned are special days to draw people in and to let customers know what is in season when, Strickland said. The schedule also includes the Extension Service’s Master Gardeners’ Garden Festival and Plant Sale on May 3 and 4.

Last year’s event attracted a large crowd on a Saturday so it was decided to expand it to two days, Strickland said.

Making it a two-day event will allow customers to benefit from both the farmers market and plant sale, she said.

“So, we have tried to tie together our different groups throughout the season,” Strickland said. “These special days we will have our Master Gardeners out there to answer questions, to share information about Extension. Michelle (Estrada), our food and nutrition agent, will do a cooking demo based on whatever that product is for the day.”