Go Wayne Go and the Goldsboro Family YMCA have teamed up to offer a new farmers market as a way to promote healthy eating and increase access to fresh, local produce.

"It's an educational opportunity as well as a nutritional opportunity because you can connect with local farmers and usually produce is cheaper at a farmers market than it is at a grocery store, and it can just make a better connection for people (to know) where their food comes from, who grows their food, and people feel good about buying directly from farmers," said Casey Collins, health educator with Go Wayne Go, a grant-funded program that promotes physical activity and healthy eating in the community.

The idea for the farmers market first began after a Healthy Wayne task force brainstorming session at the YMCA several years ago. According to Collins, the task force thought that a farmers market would be a good wellness initiative for the YMCA staff, members and the community.

Go Wayne Go picked up the project from there in the fall of 2017. Partnered with the YMCA, Go Wayne Go began connecting with farmers from the Herman Park farmers market in search of vendors.

Later that year, three trial run farmers markets were held at the YMCA. After having successful turnouts, Collins began working with the YMCA through Go Wayne Go to create a market that would run from May 7 through the end of October. The market is open every Monday near the front door of the YMCA.

"It's been one of the more rewarding projects that I've had to work on and been a part of," Collins said. "It's really great to develop relationships with the farmers and the community and give them an opportunity to sell their produce.

"It has the potential to be good for community members, as well. That's why I like it, and it's been fun working on it."

Collins said the market can increase access to fresh and healthy produce for people who might live in food deserts, since some YMCA staff and members are not necessarily from the city. A food desert is a geographic area where residents have limited or no access to affordable, healthy food options.

"Not everyone that's going to the YMCA, staff or member wise, lives in the city, so it increases their opportunities and access to healthy foods if they live somewhere that's not necessarily close to a grocery store," she said.

Sally Bowles and Kim Harrell are two vendors who currently attend the farmers market every week. They have sold produce at a total of four farmers markets over the years -- including Plum Tree, Snow Hill and Herman Park -- and have worked together for nine years selling fresh vegetables, fruit and Sally's homebaked goods.

"Meeting with people is the best part about it and seeing the regulars come back," Harrell said. "People coming in and out always stop and look, but they always have a smile on their face.

"This is one of the happiest markets I've ever seen."

Harrell and Bowles said they have regular customers who have followed them from market to market over the years. One customer comes regularly to purchase vegetables that she uses make special dishes to display at the market in an effort to help the women sell their produce.

Teresa Trivette visits the YMCA farmers market every Monday. She believes it's important to shop locally and the freshness of the produce is just a plus.

"It's important to shop local because you're supporting your community," Trivette said. "We like fresh, whole foods. We don't eat any processed foods. So (with) local and fresh, you can't go wrong."

The farmers market is now open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the YMCA every Monday through October. The program has attracted three primary vendors and a few seasonal vendors and currently has a variety of produce available, such as eggplants, watermelon, butternut squash, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions and hot peppers.

Go Wayne Go is currently accepting applications from vendors for the fall season. Anyone interested in becoming a vendor at the market can visit https://www.gowaynego.org/farmer-s-market-the-y. Farmers are not charged a fee to sign up to be a vendor, and they retain all profits made from sales.