Monday, April 23, 2018

The Chicken, the Egg and the Farmers' Market

In a previous life,* the first Evening farmers' Market of the season was much anticipated. My office was located directly across the parking lot from the small park where a dozen or more vendors regularly set up under the sprawling pecan trees, selling everything from homemade soap to cookies to cut flowers. The first few weeks were, understandably, a little light on produce, as the market opened in April and the growing season doesn't really kick into gear until June, but the lack of tomatoes and peppers was more than made up for by the aforementioned craft and baked goods along with cold-hardy vegetables like spinach, lettuce and kale.

Recalling that experience, I was excited for the first Uptown Wadesboro Farmers' Market last June. To say it was a bit of a letdown would be an understatement. That's not to criticize Uptown Wadesboro or the vendors who participated--they did the best they could with limited resources and some difficult weather--but the lack of both vendors and shoppers was disappointing. 

In talking to folks around town about the market, there seems to be a chicken-or-the-egg mentality at work. Vendors say it is not worth their time to participate because there are no shoppers, and potential shoppers say it's not worth their time because there are so few vendors. We need to break that cycle. 

Vendors need to view the first few weeks of the market this year as an investment. There may not be much foot traffic initially, but I am confident that if people see numerous vendors set up on a weekly basis they will eventually stop by and see what is for sale. About 1,000 people live or work within easy walking distance of the Town Square. If just a quarter of those, 250, took 15 minutes on a Thursday afternoon to have a look at the products being offered, that would be sufficient for most vendors to consider their time well spent.

While we certainly do not want to turn the farmers' market into a swap meet or flea market, I think it is appropriate to expand the "farmer's" aspect to include homemade craft and food items such as candles, soap, baked goods, woodworking and fiber arts. 

There are many issues facing our community which cannot be solved overnight, but a vibrant farmers' market is NOT one of them. We are an agricultural community. We can do this! It has nothing to do with Washington or Raleigh or our local elected officials, this is on us. We, as both vendors and the buying public, simply need to make a commitment to supporting our farmers' market and to buying local. 

For my part, I will be sponsoring a table at the Uptown Wadesboro Farmers' Market this summer under the Wynfield Creek Homestead banner. I have planted a market garden and hope to have fresh produce to sell by mid-June. I am also going to sell my handcrafted fishing lures, and honey produced locally by co-worker Megan Sellers. Who else is willing to make a commitment to the Uptown and our community? Contact Julian Swittenburg (704-695-1644) at Uptown Wadesboro and let him know you are interested in selling at the market. Have products to sell, but can't be at the market? Give me a call (704-690-4936) and we can work something out.

* Refers to the 10 years I spent in the "Great Northern Void" above Davidson.

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