Farmers market opens Saturday

Published 5:34 pm Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Visitors browse at one of the displays of fresh produce at a Polk County farmers market last year. (photo submitted by Rachel Fussell)

Area residents will have more choices for fresh produce beginning Saturday, April 14.
That’s when the Columbus farmers market opens for the season. The market will be held from 8 a.m. – noon at Courthouse Square in Columbus.
The Tryon market will begin on Thursday, May 3 from 4 – 6:30 p.m. Saluda market dates are to be announced soon.
Events are being planned concurrent with the markets this summer, including cooking demos by local chefs. The Wellness Coalition will be at the first market in Columbus doing health screenings.
The farmers tailgate markets flourishing all across western North Carolina, including Polk County, are not a new idea. Events where farmers and merchants spread their wares in a public setting date back to Biblical times. They have been given many names: open air markets, agoras, bazaars, flea markets, garden trade days and more. Events called county court days drew all kinds of vendors to courthouse squares in the early to mid 1900s across America.
According to local organizers, the recent resurgence of tailgate markets has been the result of the burgeoning local food movement, which is growing exponentially. Proponents of the movement say its popularity is the result of consumers realizing the health and economic benefits of eating local as much as possible. For these people, they say, educating yourself about your farmer, “putting a face on your food,” learning the ins and outs of the word “organic” or even becoming a stakeholder as a member of a CSA is more than trendy, it’s the right thing to do.
County Agricultural Economic Development Director Lynn Sprague estimates the local impact of the farmers markets in Columbus, Tryon, Saluda and Green Creek at more than $2 million  annually. He said this amount can only rise as the county explores other venues of advertising the local farmers markets in surrounding areas.
“It is definitely not a disadvantage to have a North Carolina Welcome Center right here on I-26,” said Columbus and Tryon market manager Kirk Wilson.
Last year there was a notable spike in out-of-town customers when the markets started advertising at the welcome center on I-26, Wilson said.
On a recent farm broadcast from local radio station WJFJ (AM 1160), Wilson said, “There’s one form of advertising, and the best one, that everybody can participate in. It’s called word-of-mouth. Everyone touches at least 200 people and if just every vendor at the market influenced their 200, we would touch 10,000 people rather quickly.”
– article submitted
by Rachel Fussell

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