April 2011

A Fresh Alliance: Farmers Markets Join Forces to Promote Local Produce, Growers

Author: Lance Hanlin | Photographer: John Brackett

With live music, a charming historic setting and tables of fresh local food, Kim Viljac claims her farmers market in Old Town Bluffton has “the vibe.” Over at Buckwalter Place in new Bluffton, Larry Hughes says his produce-only market provides a traditional experience.

Across the bridge to Hilton Head Island, Pamela Martin Ovens says her new market in picturesque Honey Horn is a peaceful retreat for both locals and tourists. The Mall at Shelter Cove also hosts the area’s only indoor market.

The four farmers markets in southern Beaufort County may be different, but they share the same goal of promoting local food and produce.

“We just want to increase nutrition in the area,” Viljac said. “We want to help the local farmers sell their products and increase awareness about local produce and eating healthy.”

Each market runs on a different day or time, giving vendors and potential customers an opportunity to hit all four spots. In February, representatives from each market attended a two-day conference in Columbia to exchange ideas and vendor contacts.

For the first time, the local markets also have plans for cooperative advertising and marketing.

“We hope it will encourage people to know there’s kind of a circuit that runs Tuesday through Saturday,” Hughes said. “If they miss it at one place, they can go pick up their tomatoes and cucumbers someplace else.”

FARMERS MARKET OF BLUFFTON (STREET PARTY)
Entering its third season, the Farmers Market of Bluffton offers more than fresh local food and produce each Thursday. Like the town it’s named after, the market is a state of mind.

“It’s somewhere you come to buy fresh fruits, produce and local foods, but it’s also a place where you come to see your neighbors, meet new people and learn about what’s going on in the community,” said Viljac, the market manager.

The market averages around 40 vendors during its spring and summer season. In addition to food, it also hosts several non-profit organizations and offers cooking classes. Its location at Carson Cottages on Calhoun Street puts it in the heart of one of Bluffton’s trendiest neighborhoods.

“There are other places we could have gone that would have provided us more space, but this is a great fit,” Viljac said. “People who come to all the stores and restaurants find us by mistake. People who are coming to see us find the stores and restaurants by mistake. Everybody is helping everybody.”

WHAT: Farmers Market of Bluffton
WHEN: 2 to 7 p.m. each Thursday; Grand opening March 17
WHERE: Calhoun Street at Carson Cottages in Old Town Bluffton
DETAILS: To sell your produce or for more information, e-mail manager@farmersmarketbluffton.com or call (843) 415-2447.

BUCKWALTER PLACE TRADITIONAL FARMERS MARKET (OLD SCHOOL)
The Buckwalter Place Traditional Farmers Market is gearing up for its second season after a successful debut in 2010. It’s a smaller operation than the market in Old Town, averaging nine stands and 300 customers per week last season.

There are no bells or whistles. The market only sells produce and requires at least 50 percent of the items on each farmer’s growth stand come from their own farm.

“For many of them, it’s 100 percent from their own ground,” said Hughes, the market manager.

The market takes place each Tuesday. It doesn’t have a grand opening set but will post “Farmers Market Today” signs on Buckwalter Parkway when conditions are right.

“What we’re trying to do is run a market at a time that is convenient for the younger double-income working families in the area,” Hughes said. “We encourage them to bring their children. They get to meet the farmers, and they help with selecting the produce. We’re hoping to tie this in with educational curriculum down the road to encourage better eating habits. It’s incredible. Many people don’t even know where their food comes from.”

WHAT: Buckwalter Place Traditional Farmers Market
WHEN: 3 to 6 p.m. each Tuesday; Grand opening TBA
WHERE: Buckwalter Place in Bluffton, on the west side of Buckwalter Parkway
DETAILS: To sell your produce or for more information, call Larry Hughes at (843) 836-3134.

HILTON HEAD ISLAND FARMER’S MARKET (TOURIST ATTRACTION)
Heading into its first year, the Hilton Head Island Farmers Market at Honey Horn Plantation isn’t sure what type of atmosphere to expect.

“All markets take on their own persona,” said Ovens, the market co-manager. “(Old Town) Bluffton is more of a little street party kind of thing, in a good way. Ours will be quieter, and you’ll be surrounded by nature. It’s very, very beautiful. It will have an island feel.”

The market hopes to average 30 vendors each Friday in its first year, selling fresh produce and local food. The Coastal Discovery Museum, located inside Honey Horn, will have a tent selling the pride of its vegetable patch and fresh honey made from bees raised on the plantation.

Like the Buckwalter market, farmers will be required to grow at least 50 percent of what they sell.

“So far, all but two of my growers grow 100 percent,” Ovens said. “I have a couple that grow 50 percent and then they sell 50 percent from other local growers.”

WHAT: Hilton Head Island Farmers Market
WHEN: 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Friday; Grand opening April 1
WHERE: 70 Honey Horn Plantation Road, Hilton Head Island
DETAILS: To sell your produce or for more information, e-mail Pamela Martin Ovens at Pamela@farmersmarkethiltonheadisland.com or call (843) 785-2767.

FARMER MARKET AT THE MALL AT SHELTER COVER (INSIDER ACCESS)
Customers looking for a farmers market in a climate-controlled environment can frequent one inside The Mall at Shelter Cove. The market will offer a selection of fruits, organic food, local specialties, crafts and vegetables each Thursday.

The market is the oldest in the area, starting in 2000.

“I would not do anything to discontinue Shelter Cove, because Shelter Cove was there when the farmers needed them,” said York Glover, the Clemson Cooperative Extension agent for Beaufort County. “We got interested in Hilton Head when the president of Port Royal Plaza invited us to start one there. After three years, the Town of Hilton Head said we couldn’t operate there. We were looking for places and The Mall at Shelter Cove said they would have us. We’ve been there ever since.”

WHAT: Farmers Market at The Mall at Shelter Cove
WHEN: 8 a.m. to noon each Thursday; Grand opening May 19
WHERE: The Mall at Shelter Cove, 24 Shelter Cove Lane, Hilton Head Island
DETAILS: To sell your produce or for more information, e-mail York Glover at yglover@clemson.edu or call (843) 686-3090.

OTHER FARMERS MARKETS IN BEAUFORT COUNTY
• The Town of Port Royal Farmers Market; Heritage Park on Ribaut Road by the Naval Hospital, Port Royal; 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each Saturday; More information: portroyalfarmersmarket.com

• Habersham Farmers Market, Habersham Market Place at 13 Market, Beaufort; 4 to 7 p.m. each Friday; More information: .habershamfarmersmarket.com or call 843-846-3444

• Beaufort Farmers Market; Freedom Park near the downtown marina, Beaufort; 2 to 6 p.m. each Wednesday; More information: downtownbeaufort.com.

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