The Sampson County Farmers Market opened May 17 to two dozen vendors and plenty of visitors — and organizers want to keep the good mojo going while building on it, urging continued community support and participation in the market.
“The market has gone great the past two Saturdays. We had a wonderful opening day. It was completely full and it went really well,” said Emily Mason, a regular local vendor who is heading up this year’s organization of the market. “Our honey vendor and egg vendors both sold out. Last Saturday was a little slow, but I think that was due to the holiday weekend.”
What started out as a City of Clinton-coordinated venture is now vendor-run, with Mason leading the charge. And she is looking to get everyone involved, from those who farm, craft and bake goodies to local musicians and others looking for exposure or community assistance in fundraising efforts.
The more, the merrier, she said.
The market is open from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at the Clinton City Market on Lisbon Street. There, a variety of vendors sell a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables and other farm-fresh items, along with a smorgasbord of homemade crafts and homegrown treats such as baked goods, honey, eggs, assorted jam and plants, handmade clothes, accessories, soap, wreaths, jewelry and plenty of other wares.
While Saturdays have gone well, it is tough to pull vendor and citizen traffic for the market three days out of the week, especially on Wednesday, Mason noted.
“I’m hoping that the farmers next year will agree on a one-day event,” she said. However she knows that it is vital farmers sell what they grow, even on a non-peak traffic day, and urges participation from the community. “Some of them are out there every day. Time is of the essence. They need to sell what they harvest because they can’t go and put it back in the ground.”
Since May 17’s season opening, five more people have applied to be vendors, bringing the total who have signed up to 35. While a bit slow on Wednesdays, the market picks up on Fridays and has been pretty busy on Saturdays thus far. Mason said she hopes to see the majority of those vendors out there.
“If everyone starts showing up, it will be really nice,” she stressed. “Any civic event looking to do any fundraising activities are welcome to sign up to be a vendor. We don’t mind sharing the space and providing the platform.”
And that is not limited solely to sales.
Musician Michael Daughtry played at the market on opening day and Chris Woodson, who has already enjoyed success selling eggs at the market, may be bringing his acoustic guitar to an upcoming market day. Mason said the feedback from Daughtry’s live music was extremely positive, and she wants to have that atmosphere at the market, just another aspect that would attract passers-by.
“If any local musician would be interested, they can contact me about coming out and playing in conjunction with the market,” Mason noted.
The market’s ultimate aim has been to serve as a forum where local handmade and homegrown goods can be sold directly to consumers, who can, in turn, also be educated about local farming and seasonal eating, all in order to promote the use of locally-grown ingredients and locally-made products. Exposure of local talent and offerings are key.
“My goal this year is to reach out to the community and have something every Saturday that focuses on one individual person or business and explain what they do and give demonstrations,” Mason has said. “There are so many great products and we just want to get their name out there in the public.”
Homer Marshall, executive director of the Sampson Community Development Corporation, spearheaded an effort four years ago to utilize the City Market by having a Farmers Cooperative sell locally-grown produce during the annual harvest season. That effort has grown in recent years, with a revamp last year aimed at growing the market’s regular presence to beyond what is found in the fields — to bring “the best of the county to the heart of the city.”
An effort toward showcasing “the best of the county,” Mason said she is doing some final sign-ups for food and craft demonstrations, which will likely start next weekend, June 7. Through those demonstrations, local farmers and bakers will be able to offer a “try before you buy” option to encourage more sales, while crafts — Mason plans to share the talents she brings to her venture Southern Charmz and has urged others to do the same — will also be created on the spot.
The Farmers Market has enjoyed a solid start this season and Mason is looking for that only to improve.
“The more people that are there, the more exposure everyone gets,” she stated simply. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”
For more information on the Farmers Market or to inquire about being a vendor, call Emily Bass Mason at 910-214-0065 email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Clinton-Sampson Planning Department at 910-299-4904.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.