Carolina Forest is getting a little fresher on Thursdays with a new farmers market.
Starting July 31, the community will have the opportunity to enjoy and purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, jellies and flowers in the Carolina Forest Recreational Center parking lot each week until October. The market will run from 1-6 p.m.
“We’re just thrilled,” said Bo Ives, Carolina Forest Civic Association president. “We’ve been working with the county and Waccamaw Market Cooperative since May and trying to find the best site, trying to find the best agreement.”
Clemson Cooperative Extension researched the area’s traffic and community involvement before granting the civic association a market. Ives said the market gives Carolina Forest more creedence as a growing, viable area.
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“It confirms our place and identity here,” Ives said. “It’s just one more thing the community folks can corral around.”
Carolina Forest is joining the ranks of Surfside Beach and Conway as markets under the Waccamaw Market Cooperative, a nonprofit organization that manages and coordinates community-based farmers markets throughout Horry County.
“When we started out with our market program in Horry County in 2008, we envisioned a network of markets as opposed to a market in one or two places,” said Blake Lanford, regional lead agent with Waccamaw Market Cooperative. “We started in Conway, and then we started building a broader plan where we target markets in different areas that pull from the same subset of growers.”
The cooperative currently has a market in Conway, Surfside Beach and North Myrtle Beach, which allows for little overlap in attendance. Lanford said markets generally pull foot traffic from a five-mile radius, so Carolina Forest should be safe from Conway’s overlap.
Waccamaw Market Cooperative had been looking for another area in need of local food and crafts, and after surveying Conway market’s visitors found the Carolina Forest ZIP code kept appearing.
“We decided to look into that area and that opportunity, and the Horry County board members expressed some real interest in getting one there,” Lanford said. The Carolina Forest community seems to support a new market as well – a post about the market on the association’s Facebook page received more than 2,000 likes.
“For us, you’ve got to translate ‘likes’ into sales,” Lanford said.
Though most farmers markets start early in the morning, Carolina Forest’s traffic doesn’t fit an early morning, middle-of-the-week pattern.
“Most of the folks that live in Carolina Forest work, so there’s not a lot of traffic in that area during the morning,” Lanford said. “We wanted to capture that traffic coming home from work, and we’ll see if that works – if not, we’ll shift it.” Thursdays were the only days not currently taken by other markets in the cooperative.
Lanford expects 10 to 15 vendors initially, but said all current vendors across the other markets have shown interest. The cooperative has capped the amount of artisan vendors at 12, but food growers and processors are still welcome.
“If you grow fruits and vegetables, you’re automatically admitted,” Lanford said.
All vendors are allowed to participated in the market, provided each pays a yearly $50 liability fee and a daily fee, which varies from $10 to $15, depending on the vendor’s status. To apply for a vendor position, visit www.waccamawmarkets.org.
Cindy Howell, owner of Worley Lane Farms in Nichols, currently sells goat cheese, milk and goat milk soaps at both the Conway and North Myrtle Beach farmers markets. She said opening another market in Carolina Forest allows the community and area vendors the chance to pump revenue back into Horry County.
“We’re very excited to have this market open to us, and I think it’s excellent for the people of Horry County,” Howell said. “It’s a great opportunity to have that money coming right back into the community.”
Howell, whose farm has been in her family since 1880, won’t be able to participate in the Carolina Forest market at first due to the time and effort needed to cultivate her products. However, she’s looking forward to joining the market in the fall or next summer, when she has the manpower to create enough cheese and soaps.
“We sell out on the weekends what we make the days before, so that’s the main reason we can’t participate early on in the market,” Howell said. “But we would love to participate as soon as possible.”
A fresh, local farmers market is a healthy sign of community, Howell said, and fresh vegetables, crafts and artisan soaps will bring Carolina Forest farmers, vendors and buyers closer together.
“It’s the community coming together to help the community – that’s one of the big benefits of the markets,” she said.
For more information on the upcoming market, or information on the area’s other daily markets, visit www.waccamawmarkets.org or call Blake Lanford at 365-6715, ext. 115.
“It’s just another exciting addition to our community,” Ives said.