Farmers Market opens April 17

Market adds programming, seeks longer run

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Wilson Farmers & Artisan Market opens its 2019 season on April 17 at 8 a.m. and will run every Wednesday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through October, specializing in locally-grown produce and handcrafted artisan products.

Located under the pavilion at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, the market features vendors offering fruits and vegetables, plants and flowers, honey, eggs and meats, breads and desserts, soaps and lotions, jewelry and paintings and furniture and home decor.

Vendors rave about their experiences as market participants and look forward to the new season.

“We like it because we like to connect with our customers face-to-face,” said James Flowers, co-owner of OMGoodness Pimento Cheese. “We enjoy the connection. We get to know our customers, and we get immediate feedback by doing samples. Probably nine out of 10 times if someone says they don’t like pimento cheese, they try ours and then they like pimento cheese and come back for more! It’s not uncommon to hear stories about people buying it at the market and taking it to family in other states.”

Flowers appreciates the tremendous support from Wilsonians and people from surrounding areas.

“You build friendships,” Flowers said. “You may not know everyone by name, but you know their faces.” Flowers says that in addition to the local followers who come to the farmers market, they’ve also met customers from all over the state and the country who just happen to come upon the site. Some are at the Vollis Simpson Park to see the whirligigs or are in town visiting students at Barton College.

“It’s a good fit,” said Flowers of the market location.

Flowers also says it’s not only about the customers but their fellow vendors, too.

“It’s so great to work with the other vendors,” Flowers said. “They are very eager to work with each other.”

This season, the market is expanding to include educational programming to run alongside the vendors.

“Something that will differ this year is that we are focusing more on programming each day,” said Susan Kellum, Downtown marketing and communication coordinator.

“A lot of these programs are being done through non-profits and provide an interactive event in addition to group information about the organization. In other words, they will offer an activity in addition to education.”

Kellum said the programming need not necessarily be geared toward children as long as there is an interactive component. Organizers are asking that interested not have political or religious affiliations. Groups interested in providing programming and education at the Farmers & Artisan Market can call market manager Mikel Macalusa at 252-373-0524 or mmacalusa@wilsonnc.org.

Food trucks will once again be a part of the Farmers & Artisan Market.

“There will be at least one food truck there that carries breakfast and lunch offerings and a hot dog cart,” Kellum said.

The market is seeking to run for a longer period of time this year, Kellum said, lasting well into the month of October. Last year’s weather wreaked havoc on some crops, creating a shortage of agricultural product before the farmers market season ended.

“We make sure our vendors are a good fit for the market, with one requirement being that they are local,” Kellum said. “But not all crops are grown in Wilson, and we have a need for them, so we have what we call ‘Produce Partners.’ They might farm outside our local area, but they can partner with a local farmer. This will help us secure vendors that fit into the fall produce and product area and help us expand our dates into the fall.”

All applications are accepted exclusively through the Manage My Market website at managemymarket.com. Market organizers ask that interested vendors read through the vendor guidelines section and, if they feel they are a match with the Wilson Farmers & Artisan Market, set up an account with Manage My Market and complete the application. Produce Partners guidelines are also included on the website.

You can find the link to Management My Market and more information about the Wilson Farmers & Artisans Market at www.historicdowntownwilson.com. If a potential vendor has questions about the Manage My Market website, contact market manager Mikel Macalusa.