One of the oldest forms of marketing in the local community by a group of people takes place at farmers markets. Every week, growers gather to sell their produce directly to consumers.
It seems that in the last several years, farmers markets have gained popularity and become a ritual for many shoppers. At a farmers market, a group of farmers, that all seem to know every other fairly well, get together and display their best produce of the season. Most that I've seen are a one or two-man (or woman) operation. They haul in their crates of watermelons, peaches and potatoes, set everything up carefully and beautifully, then wait and hope for new and returning customers. Yes, several growers are selling similar products, but they all compete in business civilly. There are so many benefits for growers to sell at a farmers market, including less storage need, less transport, and less handling. They want to get their products directly into the hands of their customers. A farmers market is the opportunity to not only support the local economy, but also perhaps find the freshest, local foods.
Markets seem to be popping up all over the Myrtle Beach area and it is definitely something to take advantage of. There really isn't any reason you can't go to one.
Where are the Farmers Markets?
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The Waccamaw Market Cooperative oversees the organization of several farmers markets in Horry County that are located in North Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, Conway, Loris and The Market Common. There are actually two in Conway, one in downtown and another every other Friday at Conway Medical Center. There are also other farmers markets outside of this network, so I included all of them below.
Here is a list of farmers markets in our area:
Conway: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, 217 Laurel Street
Conway Medical Center: (Bi-Weekly) 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays, near the cafeteria entrance
Loris: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays, downtown Loris by the town clock
The Market Common: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, Deville Street, Myrtle Beach
Myrtle's Market: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Mr. Joe White Avenue at Oak Street, Myrtle Beach
North Myrtle Beach: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, First Avenue South between North Myrtle Beach Library and City Hall
Surfside Beach: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, behind Sundown Restaurant & Sports Pub off Surfside Drive in the parking lot at Poplar Street
If you want to learn more about farmers markets or are interested in selling at them, contact the Clemson Extension Service at 365-6715 or e-mail Blake Lanford at firstname.lastname@example.org. For a list of more farms and Community Supported Agriculture programs, visit www.localharvest.org. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an opportunity to pay for seasonal produce on a regular basis, similar to that of a monthly membership, where the growers provide you with their produce regularly for a fee.
Going in with a plan
If you are new to farmers markets or are just looking to get better at shopping at them, try out these tips:
Know your seasons: Growers sell based on their seasonal product, so don't expect to find local strawberries in late October. Plan your shopping trip based on what you plan to eat and cook in the course of that week.
Plan to eat fresh soon: When buying product at the farmers market, it's very fresh, so you will want to eat it within the next few days. Any later and it will go to waste.
Go early or go late: Either beat the crowd and the heat when it first opens or you can try to get the best deals near closing time. Most growers want to get rid of as much as possible, but prices are usually pretty good already.
Plan meals first: Have an idea of what you plan to cook that week and that eases your browsing stress. A farmers market can be overwhelming because there seems to be endless selection.
Talk to the farmers: You can learn so much from the farmers at the farmers markets. They know their produce and can even make suggestions for recipes and preparation of the food. However, just because it's a farmers market doesn't mean it's all grown organic or actually grown by the person selling it. The Waccamaw Market Cooperative will help highlight the certified South Carolina produce at its markets.
Fresh on the Menu
The Certified South Carolina program is a cooperative effort among producers, processors, wholesalers, retailers and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA) to brand and promote South Carolina products. You can find more info online at www.certifiedscgrown.com.
Fresh on the Menu is a part of this program, started in 2008, and provides information to promote local foods to consumers. Restaurants have become partners and participating chefs agree to prepare menus that include at least 25 percent Certified South Carolina grown food and products in season and feature the Fresh on the Menu brand. If you are looking for recipes and restaurants that support and serve South Carolina certified food, check out a new web app that you can download onto your smart phone. Unfortunately, I was unable to find it on the App Store on my iPhone, but if you go to the Web site through the browser and click "Add to home" then you can get it from there. The Web site is www.freshonthemenuapp.com. It's free to download on the iPhone. But keep in mind that this app is fairly new, so the list of featured places has some growing, so to speak.