Long, soggy winter may delay appearance of some local produce at farmers markets

Farmers market season has arrived, but a rainy winter means most local produce still is a few weeks away.

Myrtle Beach kicked off its season Wednesday at Myrtle’s Market with two vendors – Indigo Farms and Graham’s Produce – and market organizer Bryan Lowery said he thinks things will pick up in the coming weeks. The market is open on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Myrtle’s Market was the first of about a half dozen farmers markets in Horry County to open for the season, with markets in Conway, Surfside Beach, North Myrtle Beach and at The Market Common scheduled to open in early May.

Johnny Graham with Graham’s Produce in Conway said there was a slow but steady stream of people stopping by the Myrtle Beach farmers market on opening day.

“Hopefully we’ll get some more [vendors] in the next few weeks,” he said.

Only a few local items were ready to be sold, including beets, green onions, cabbage, strawberries and honey, Graham said.

John W. Smith of Canada said he stopped by the market specifically looking for green onions. He said he has visited Myrtle Beach annually for the past several years and tries to shop at Myrtle’s Market when he can.

“We usually do our shopping at Bi-Lo when the markets aren’t open, but we couldn’t find any [green onions] anywhere,” he said with two bundles in his hand. “I remembered they had them here last year at this time of year.”

A wet winter has delayed some of the crops at local farms, said Blake Lanford with the Clemson extension of Waccamaw Market Cooperative, a nonprofit group that coordinates and manages farmers markets.

The Clemson extension works with farmers markets in North Myrtle Beach, Conway, Surfside Beach and at the Conway Medical Center. The group used to manage the market at The Market Common, but the development is handling its management this year.

“It’s really early in the season so you’re not going to see a lot of stuff yet,” Lanford said. “We had a late, wet and hard winter. Everything’s been sopping wet all winter so it’s hard to get out into the fields.”

Right now, most vendors will likely offer local strawberries, asparagus, beets, cabbage, herbs, green onions, leafy greens and radishes, he said. Many vendors choose to supplement their offerings by purchasing additional produce in bulk at the state farmers market and reselling it at local markets, Lanford said.

“The rule is that the majority of what you sell has to be locally produced,” he said.

Most of the growers that work with the cooperative are in Horry County or nearby, Lanford said, adding he thinks there will more be local offerings available by mid-May.

The Deville Street Farmers Market at The Market Common is being managed in-house after the cooperative’s board chose to focus on their core markets this year instead, Lanford said.

Jenni Austin, event coordinator with The Market Common, said managing the market will be different for the development, but expects the market to continue to grow.

“We’ve had a good turnout here … [of] both residents and folks from other places,” she said. “People are excited that it’s coming back.”

At Myrtle’s Market, Myrtle Beach resident Donna Sloan said she usually visits the market a few times a year to get whatever is fresh and local. On Wednesday it was a few baskets of strawberries.

“They’re much better than in the grocery store,” Sloan said, saying she tries to shop local when she can. “I’ll be back this year – when my strawberries are gone.”