NORTH MYRTLE BEACH — Fans of fresh produce will have a new farmers market in Surfside Beach this year and should expect to see more vendors, special events and entertainment at the growing network of markets along the Grand Strand.
Farmers markets are gearing up for the season – North Myrtle Beach’s opened Wednesday, with others to follow later this week – and shoppers are ready, even though some of the locally grown produce won’t be arriving for a few more weeks.
The unseasonably cold weather this spring has slowed some crops – strawberries are a week or so late – but mother nature didn’t cause major trouble in the fields, growers said. Farmers market patrons still will have plenty to choose from during these early season weeks, with some of the tomatoes, squash and fruit coming from Florida and central South Carolina until the crops here are ripe.
“It’s coming, it’s just a little slower,” said Johnny Graham, a farmer who runs Myrtle’s Market in Myrtle Beach and also sells produce at other area markets. “It slowed down a bunch of stuff with it being cold for so long. It’s coming. It’s just a little slower. It’s getting there.”
Surfside Beach is getting its own farmers market this year, off Surfside Drive in the parking lot at Poplar Street behind Sundown Restaurant & Sports Pub. The market, which opens May 28, will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays.
Farmers markets have become more popular in the last few years as a growing number of consumers want to eat healthy and know where their food comes from, said Blake Lanford, regional lead agent with the Clemson Extension office, which oversees the Waccamaw Market Cooperative. The cooperative has added a location along the Grand Strand each of the past few years, spreading them geographically, aiming to make it convenient for consumers, Lanford said.
“We’ve got more vendors than ever, more exposure than ever,” he said. “It’s starting to take hold. People are paying attention to where their food comes from.”
Market operators say there’s plenty of demand from consumers to go around, and many of the same farmers set up at several of the markets.
“There’s enough people to go around,” Graham said as he bit into a pear. “People want to eat locally and healthy.”
A steady stream of shoppers flowed into the North Myrtle Beach market on Wednesday, a mix of locals and frequent tourists eager for fresh produce and many of them carrying away a cluster of bags bulging with beets, corn, tomatoes – even freshly made pies and locally made glass cheese plates.
“We love all that kind of stuff,” resident Toni Gray said after loading her car trunk with bags of beets, strawberries, onions, cucumbers and other produce. “It’s fresher, and the prices are great.”
Georgetown farmer Jeff Haynes was selling some produce from Lexington County and Florida at the North Myrtle Beach market on its first day of the season Wednesday, but said his crops are looking good.
“Everything is sprouting and looking pretty good right now,” he said, leaning on a crate of tomatoes. “We should see it next month.”
Georgetown County officials are hoping business at the county’s two farmers markets will pick up as the weather warms up. The market in Pawleys Island has moved to a new spot in Parkersville Park this year, and consumers might not yet know about the new location.
“Things have been slow so far,” county spokeswoman Jackie Broach said, “but we are hoping it is going to pick up next week.”
Cheryl Warren of Mebane, N.C., who owns property along the Grand Strand, walked away from the North Myrtle Beach farmers market Wednesday with several bags and a cracker-and-cheese dish for a friend. She’s cooking more during her stay at the beach instead of eating at restaurants as much, and loaded up on ingredients, including strawberries and tomatoes.
“I may actually come back Friday,” she said.
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