Vendor-driven Farmers Market set for May 17 opening

By Chris Berendt

May 1, 2014

The Sampson County Farmers Market, set to open up later this month, will be building on its successful revamp from last year and moving forward with a few more changes, notably being driven by the vendors themselves.

The market will be open from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. every Monday, Friday and Saturday, beginning on Saturday, May 17, at the Clinton City Market on Lisbon Street. A variety of fruits and vegetables will be sold, as well a smorgasbord of homemade items, baked goods and even some other farm-fresh goodies.

Emily Mason, one of the local vendors who regularly participated last year, is heading up the organization for what started out as a City of Clinton-coordinated venture.

“My goal this year is to reach out to the community and have something every Saturday that focuses on one individual person or business and explain what they do and give demonstrations,” Mason said. “There are so many great products and we just want to get their name out there in the public.”

The market’s ultimate aim has been to serve as a forum where local handmade and homegrown goods can be sold directly to consumers, who can, in turn, also be educated about local farming and seasonal eating, all in order to promote the use of locally-grown ingredients and locally-made products. A revamped Farmers Market opened its season last year to a large turnout of vendors and patrons, staying open until November. Mason said she wants to build on that good start.

Mason said the plans are to have mostly produce vendors on hand on Wednesdays and Fridays, and for both the produce and craft vendors, as well as those offering other homemade goods, to come out for expanded Saturday sales.

There are nearly a dozen new vendors, including two new bakeries serving savory pies, croissants and other baked goods, an organic egg farm, a beef and pork farm and another pork vendor, among the 25-30 vendors already signed up. That includes about seven new craft vendors. “Almost all the craft vendors are coming back,” Mason noted.

Additionally, Mason is hoping that a Newton Grove business that cures its own farm-fresh bacon will be able to participate, pending Health Department approval as the operation would require a hand-washing facility.

Mason said demonstrations and exhibits will be a part of this year’s market. As in the case of the bacon vendor, bacon could be cooked right there and a “try before you buy” demonstration. Homer Marshall, executive director of the Sampson Community Development Corporation, will put on a cooking demo as part of May 17’s opening and craft vendors are anticipated to be very involved in the effort to display their goods and show how they’re made.

It was Marshall who spearheaded an effort four years ago to utilize the City Market by having a Farmers Cooperative sell locally-grown produce during the annual harvest season, but the efforts of a loyal few were not reaching the masses.

Bolstered by new growing techniques and local and state partnerships, Marshall and others endeavored to jump-start the market at the beginning of last year. A local volunteer committee was formed in January 2013 with the goal of growing the farmers’ regular presence downtown in order to boost the success of the 2013 market season, encompassing vendors that span beyond farming — to bring “the best of the county to the heart of the city.”

Offering not only fresh and organically-grown produce, the market featured crafts and homegrown treats, such as baked goods, honey, eggs, assorted jam and plants, handmade clothes, accessories, soap, wreaths, jewelry and other wares. The Sampson Regional Wellness Center also held health education and fitness classes at the market through coordination of city staff.

“Their goal was to eventually make it a farmer and vendor-driven market,” said Mason.

Mason said she jumped at the opportunity to help local business get more exposure every week. One of about a dozen “steady” vendors last year, she is hoping to build on that number.

“I was a vendor last year and I really enjoyed going out there each Saturday,” said Mason, who makes pillowd, floral arrangements and other crafts through her Southern Charmz venture. “The farmers were just so helpful and they’re a great group of guys. They’re also a quiet bunch and they’re busy with their farms and I was the loudest mouth out there so I decided to help do this.”

Mason said the exposure and the forum that the market has provided her and others has helped what was previously a hobby in Southern Charmz truly transform into a secondary business.

“It was great for my business,” she said. “I decided to help with the market this year because I kind of wanted to be able to do that for somebody else.”

For more information on the Farmers Market or to inquire about being a vendor, call Emily Bass Mason at 910-214-0065 email her at or call the Clinton-Sampson Planning Department at 910-299-4904.

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.