How often do you buy or even think about buying local? Whether it be from the Farmers Market, a local independently owned restaurant or business, a local artist, or directly from a local farmer, there are many great benefits to buying local goods and services.
Our first focus in this three part series features the Vance County Regional Farmers Market which opened in 2014. Through a series of grants from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund, the N.C. Department of Agriculture Farmland Preservation Fund, and the Vance County Farm Bureau, Henderson was able to build the first indoor heated market. Pete Burgess, who was instrumental in the formation of the Vance County Farmers Market said, “The idea for an indoor Farmers Market started in 2004. At the time farmers needed a source of income other than tobacco. Because it was a Tier 1 county, meaning it was a poor county, The Gold Leaf Foundation did a survey on what Vance County needed money for most. The foundation voted schools first, the rural fire department second, and an indoor Farmers Market third. The Farm Bureau partnered with the Vance County Extension Service to see what we could do”.
The county gave roughly $50,000 towards the market and the rest was raised through grants and donations. When asked why the market wasn’t in a more centrally located space closer to downtown Burgess said, “At the time, it was the only land we could afford.” The Vance County Regional Farmers Market is located at 210 Southpark Dr. Henderson. It is just off of South Beckford Drive near the Social Security Office. It is a first class facility with water, rest rooms, electricity, a classroom, on-site parking, and covered sales space.
While shopping at the Farmers Market this past Saturday, April 23, Damon Brown was asked why he shopped there. He said, “I totally believe in supporting farmers, especially local farmers. It’s healthier produce because it’s fresher”. Damon’s mother Elva Small said, “I’ve always shopped at the Farmers Market. I take enough pills for health reasons so I want to make sure I can get the healthiest food possible, and you meet such wonderful people here. My grandparents were farmers, so it also brings back such wonderful memories.”
WIZS News spoke with market manager Tracy Madigan during Saturday’s hustle and bustle. She oversees the vendors and answers questions the public might have while shopping at the market. When asked what is the value of buying locally and supporting farmers and artists at the market she replied, “For starters the taste of locally grown food is so much better. Most of the produce you buy from grocery stores has traveled so far by the time you get it, it’s 3-4 weeks old and from other countries. It’s most likely pumped with water to make it bigger. This takes away so much flavor. Another huge value is that not only do you know where your food comes from, but you’re putting money back into your county and state. You support that farmer, who then buys from another locally sourced business. It’s a cycle and the money stays here.”
There are also many vendors at the Farmers Market who organically grow their products. They may not be certified organic because becoming certified is often costly, but customers can always ask vendors what practices they use to grow and raise their produce. It’s becoming increasingly important to people how what they are eating was grown or raised. People want to know if pesticides were used on the produce or if it was grown organically, if they eat animal products they want to know that that animal was raised humanely with no growth hormones or antibiotics pumped into it, and whether or not the produce is grown using Non-GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms).
Another shopper on Saturday, Susan James said, “I buy from the Farmers Market because I know and trust many of the vendors. I can ask if their produce is organically grown. In this day and age with so many people getting cancer that is very important to me. Unless it’s marked organic, you can’t always get this level of quality at grocery stores plus the produce here at the Farmers Market is often more affordable. I’m also putting money back into my community.”
Vendors have increased steadily since the market opened in 2014. Madigan said, “Last year we had 35 vendors overall and those numbers will continue to increase as we move into May.” If interested in becoming a vendor, there is an annual $30 fee and a $10 fee on the days that you sell. Sellers must be from Vance, Granville, Warren, or Franklin counties, or Mecklinburg County in Virginia. Fifty one percent of everything sold must have been produced or made by the seller. Everything must be hand grown or hand made. For more detailed guidelines or an application click here or email email@example.com.
Other great opportunities the Farmers Market provides are classes held throughout the selling season. These classes cover topics on various gardening and yard practices that the general public may want to increase their knowledge on. Some of the classes covered previously were proper mulching, adding native plants to your landscape, and how to grow lavender, just to name a few. This past Monday evening on April 25th, Wayne Rowland, Agricultural and Natural Resources Technician with the NC Cooperative Extension in Vance County, held a class on growing watermelon and cantaloupe successfully.
The center hopes to have cook offs and other special events in the future but it needs more “man-power”. Madigan said, “We would love to have more volunteers as we have a limited budget.” How wonderful it would be if people from all five counties made this a really big community oriented place for families to come, learn, and grow together.
The facility is available for rent and many people have used it for private functions. Vance Granville Community College used it on Thursday, April 21 for a luncheon on Emerging Consumer Markets for the Agricultural Business. Local businesses have rented it for luncheons, dinners, and customer appreciation events.
So you see, there are numerous reasons to get involved with your local Farmers Market wherever you are. Farmers Market patron Maggie Peck leaves us with this statement, “Buying local is a way to give back, a way to be responsible. It’s good for the farmers, it’s good for you, and it’s good for the planet. Plus, you meet the most interesting and wonderful people here.”
Market Hours: Saturdays- 7:30 am – 1:00pm and starting May 4th Wednesdays 7:30 am- Noon
To donate or volunteer click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
WIZS staff writer