Farmers Market rides high hopes into new year

By Scott Witten

March 29, 2014

RED SPRINGS — Agriculture is always at the mercy of the weather.

The Red Springs Farmers Market is no different. The market, which first opened in June 2013, was marred for much of its initial summer and fall run by bad weather.

Town officials are hoping the market’s second year has a better forecast — economically and weather wise.

“The Farmers Market was not very successful last year, but that is because it rained almost every time,” Mayor John McNeill said. “We’re hoping the weather is more cooperative this year.”

The market, located on the corner of West Fourth Avenue between Vance and Williams streets, has already attracted a few vendors over the past two weekends looking to sell equipment, household goods and used clothing. The market is open each Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m to 7 p.m.

But the market’s main attraction — produce — will not return until late spring or early summer.

“If the weather remains nice, I think we can get people out to enjoy the fresh fruit and vegetables,” McNeill said. “I know my wife and I plan to take advantage of all the produce on sale.”

Town Manager James Bennett said the town is looking at add special events to attract visitors to the market.

“We would like to have things like music or bands to draw people in,” Bennett said. “We see the market as a gathering place to come together and have a good time and buy fresh produce from local growers.”

Bennett added that he has not beeen discouraged by the market’s first year.

“Last year at the Main Street conference, they told us not to be surprised if participation trails off a bit, but the second year it often comes back,” Bennett said. “So we are counting on growing and doing better this year. The market has a lot of great things to offer, we just need to get people to see it. For example, I’ve been told that if there are any fresher eggs than the ones at our market, they are still in the chicken.”

The Red Springs Small Towns Economic Prosperity committee had planned to seek a $100,000 grant through the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission to help build a permanent facility for the Farmers Market. The committee was unable to put the application together by the March 5 deadline.

The group plans to work with the town on additional grant application due in the fall.

“We’re still moving in that direction,” Bennett said. “We have yet to decide to build a facility or bring in a prefabricated shelter for our market vendors.”

Mac Legerton, who serves on the STEP committee, urged town leaders to continue to make the Farmers Market “a top priority.”

“It is an important aspect of enhancing the quality of life in Red Springs and one of the reasons we have been urging the town to start one,” Legerton said. “Lumberton is the only other town in Robeson County to have one. The Farmers Market is a big deal.”

Bennett agreed.

“We see the Farmers Market as one more way to keep money here in Red Springs, instead of it taking it out of town,” he said.

The Farmers market will have about 18 tables available for rent. Spots must be rented at least one day in advance and cost $8.

To rent a space, farmers and vendors can fill out an application with Annette Bryant or Letitia Currie in Town Hall, Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.