John Smith, Manager of Hampton County Farmers Market keeps things going at a steady pace. He records activities, cuts grass, places display materials for public viewing, qualifies produce for sale and has time to stop and visit with vendors and shoppers.
The hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays. If you are running late and vendors appear to be leaving, just take out your money and you will see just how quickly they can stop!
Each vendor pays a $5.00 fee per day. There is no special place for a vendor to setup his or her produce but you can bet they arrive early and are ready for the eight o’clock opening. Any produce sold is grown locally or within the State of South Carolina. The vendors specialize in selling in-season produce. When I stopped by, there was an abundant supply of watermelons, cantaloupes, peaches, tomatoes, potatoes, plums and other delicious fruits and vegetables.
In addition to cash, the vendors accept EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards and WIC (Women, Infant & Children) cards to promote a nutritional and supplemental diet to a family.
Naming names can cause a problem if leaving out someone but these are some of the folks that are helping make the Farmers Market a success: Ernie Avant, Charles Grill, Sally Hiers, George Knight, William Koger, Peggy Parker and Mark Wooten. Serving with them in an advisory capacity is the manager and at least one farmer representing other growers and vendors.
The Market has received funding from The Beaufort Fund (Coastal Community Foundation), Hampton County Farm Bureau and Palmetto Electric. The large attractive spools were donated by Palmetto Electric and painted by the Market’s committee members.
The average number of vendors is five and the produce is reasonably priced. I inquired as to what the favorite fruit or vegetable was and TOMATOES topped the list. Nothing like a great fresh, ripe tomato and mayonnaise sandwich!
If you have concerns about the quality of the produce, Mr. Smith examines each load before it can be displayed. It must be fresh, clean, and of good quality. Because the quality standard is high, it assures a return of customers.
Does the manager grow his own produce? Absolutely! Can the manager setup his produce the same as a vendor? Absolutely not! He may sell his produce to the vendors. His job is to manage. The idea of the Farmers Market is to help the farmers and provide a high quality of produce to the consumer.
On occasion, one may find a few animals from the Community Animal Shelter. I understand J.C. Clifton had a few puppies up for adoption on display. Charles Lightsey of Pop’s Hobby Shop may be at the Market selling home made furniture. He specializes in Adirondack chairs, rocking chairs, picnic tables, swings and much more. If Mr. Lightsey is not there on a day you need him, you may contact Mr. Smith, the Market Manager on open days and he will pass the message on.
The Farmers’ Market building is home for storage space and a small office area. The deck has been used for health screenings and other activities, or just a place to sit and talk. Bake sales and other food sales are not allowed due to DHEC regulations unless the persons have received a DHEC permit.
After leaving the Market, I had contact with a traveler from Fountain Inn, SC. He saw my camera and that led to a discussion about the Market. He knew what the hours were and I was amazed that he knew that. These were his thoughts which were in line with what one of the vendors told me. He wanted a watermelon but the Market closes at 1:00 pm and would be closed when he left town. The vendor had hoped that one day the hours would be extended until 6:00 pm. That reminded me of the State Commerce meetings in my younger years - have your business open when the community is on the move. If most people are working during your open hours, re-think your hours. Also, he said coming from Hampton to Varnville, the tree growth between Sooper Dooper and the Market makes it less visible than going from Varnville to Hampton. From the Hampton side, once you take notice of its existence, it’s almost too late to stop.
From Beaufort, SC another traveler told me had purchased two watermelons from the Farmers Market. We may think the Market is patronized only by locals but from one end of the state to the other, the Market made itself known.
After taking pictures and spending about an hour with Mr. Smith and the vendors, he sends this message to the readers and customers: “Stop by where the people are friendly, and the produce is great. If you don’t want to purchase, just stop by and talk farming. You may find out how to grow a sweeter watermelon or how to keep okra from turning brown. From one to the other, there is a wealth of information to be shared.”
Please try The Farmers Market. You may like it!
July 7, 2010