Thursday, March 30, 2023

‘Producers only’ farmers market puts local food on your table, no middleman

Organizers promise to only sell products found within 70 miles of Wilmington city limits.

Farmers markets are popular, but they can be expensive, and don’t always offer local products. The Wilmington Farmers Market will focus on food from within 70 miles, and eschew crafts and ‘value-added’ products. (Port City Daily photo | FILE)

WILMINGTON – Farmers markets are popular, but not without their drawbacks: they’re hard to find in the winter months, they don’t always feature local produce, and the use of middlemen can drive up prices.

Those are some of the reasons that local farmer Stenersen is teaming up with Tidal Creek to launch a new year-round venture – the Wilmington Farmers Market – that focuses exclusively on local goods sold by the people who produced them.

Stenersen, who runs Humble Roots Farm with his family, is familiar with the difficulty of verifying the “localness” of food at farmers markets, including those in produce powerhouse states like CaliforniaFlorida and North Carolina). Because many of markets operate as pop-ups and are organized locally, there often isn’t the manpower to trace or certify food.

The Wilmington Farmers Market will have strict guidelines, Stenersen said.

“If it’s not from within 70 miles, we won’t sell it. We actually had a conversation and decided not to sell coffee, although there are local roasters. The thing is, the coffee isn’t grown here – so we’re not selling it,” Stenersen said.

Stenersen said that by holding the market next to Tidal Creek, the market can focus on just local items.

“We’re not focusing on ‘value-added’ products or crafts like some other markets. We hope between the (the market and Tidal Creek), people can really do their week’s worth of shopping,” Stenersen said. “We want to be people’s alternative place to do their grocery shopping.”

Sternersen recently experimented with a farm-to-customer delivery service, but logistical issues proved problematic. So, Sternersen decided to give farmers markets another try – this time fixing what he didn’t like about other markets.

According to Tidal Creek spokeswoman Kaitlin Franklin, the Wilmington Farmers Market will feature food from within 70 miles of Wilmington city limits. The market won’t feature bakers who don’t use local ingredients and will turn away resellers of any kind.

The Wilmington Farmers Market will allow small farms to sell directly to consumers. (Not this small, of course, but smaller family run farms.) (Port City Daily photo | BENJAMIN SCHACHTMAN)
The Wilmington Farmers Market will allow small farms to sell directly to consumers. (Not this small, of course, but smaller family-run farms.) (Port City Daily photo | BENJAMIN SCHACHTMAN)

Local farms that will be featured include:

  • Black River Organic Farm
  • Red Beard Farms
  • Humble Roots Farm
  • Shelton Herb Farm
  • Changin’ Ways Farm
  • Turner Family Farms

One of the benefits of buying direct from local farmers is reducing cost increases incurred by middle-men, who buy produce from farms but have to make a profit when they go to market. According to Sternersen, the market hopes to offer “fair, reasonable” prices that are comparable to grocery stores.

In addition to lower costs than some markets, Franklin also hopes that vendors at Tidal Creek will be able to accept SNAP benefits – broadening the range of people who can take advantage of the market.

The markets reasonable rates for vendors reflect Tidal Creek’s hope that the market will become part of a mutually beneficial relationship with Tidal Creek’s store.

“We’re really hoping to build a symbiotic relationship with the market, so that customers can come buy their produce from the farmer and buy everything else they need for the week from us,” Franklin said.

Starting on March 3, the market will run year-round, every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. – even when most farmers markets have packed it in for the cold season. Franklin said Tidal Creek would be coordinating events with the market, including their now-recurring Goat Yoga events.

More information, including details for interested vendors, can be found at the Wilmington Farmers Market website. Information about upcoming events can be found on the Tidal Creek Facebook page.

On the map: Tidal Creek Co-Op

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