The moment of truth has arrived, and city officials, farmers and vendors are hoping that Wednesday’s grand opening of the newly expanded Sampson Farmers’ Market will see a plentiful display of product and an equally bountiful patronage.
The farmers’ market will officially open at 9 a.m. this Wednesday, May 1, and extend until 1 p.m. at the Clinton City Market on Lisbon Street. The market will continue to be open on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. through October.
While the market has had a presence downtown in recent years, the results on both sides — from local produce for sale to those willing to buy it — has admittedly not been up to par. The renewed expectation for the Sampson Farmers’ Market is to bring “the best of the county to the heart of the city,” showcasing homegrown produce and handcrafted products.
Homer Marshall, executive director of the Sampson Community Development Corporation, spearheaded an effort three years ago to utilize the City Market by having a local Farmers Cooperative (Co-op) sell locally-grown produce during the annual harvest season. However, the quality of the product was not what it could have been, Marshall conceded.
The construction of several high tunnel greenhouses, often called hoophouses, by a group of Sampson farmers on their properties just last year has helped them extend the growing season, and yield an improved product. Additionally, a local volunteer committee was formed in January toward organizing a concerted effort to better market the farmers’ regular presence downtown — as well as add to it — in order to boost the success of the 2013 market season.
“We’re better prepared to have more produce up there than ever before,” said Marshall. “It’s looking a lot better.”
And many have joined in the effort to see that the extended growing season means more profitability for farmers and feasible, homegrown produce for the masses. And, despite the name, the venue spans beyond solely farming. It is a place where a variety of people can sign up to sell their homegrown wares.
“The Sampson Farmers’ Market is a venue for local individuals to sell their handmade and homegrown goods directly to consumers, to educate consumers about local farming and seasonal eating and to encourage businesses to use and promote the use of locally-grown ingredients and locally-made products,” said Audrey Whetten, planner with the Clinton-Sampson Planning Department.
This year, in addition to fresh and organically grown produce, the market will also include craft items and some additional wares and selected home grown treats, such as baked goods, honey, eggs, assorted jam and plants.
Marshall has also received an EBT (electronic benefits transfer) machine as part of a state program to encourage the use of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits at farmers’ markets. The machine will allow market customers to use debit, credit and SNAP benefits cards to purchase items, a feature expected to make the market accessible to a wider audience.
“There’s going to be a wider variety and that’s really exciting,” said Whetten. “We’re trying to build momentum, not just for a day or a month, but for the whole season.”
Everyone is encouraged to attend Wednesday’s opening, where there is expected to be more than a dozen different vendors and even a couple guest speakers to ring in a new season for the rejuvenated market.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.