By Sydni Hebert
My favorite time of the year is about to commence and I could not be more thrilled. I feel like a small child waiting for Christmas Day! The Charleston Farmers Market will open its symbolic doors for the 25th year tomorrow at 8am. Every Saturday, rain or shine, from April 13th until December 21st I will have access to the freshest local produce within a 4-minute walking distance from my house. Seriously, it’s like Christmas for me to have this wonderful event, in the heart of downtown Charleston to boot!
When I moved here five years ago, the farmers market was one of the initial aspects that made me fall in love with this great city. During one of my first trips to the market I met Raychelle Bennett, or as many people know her “the pickle lady”. She was giving out free samples and asking everyone about their day. It was
this friendliness and Southern hospitality that made me feel like I was back in my hometown of Louisiana. I stayed and talked to her for well over 15 minutes. From then on, every Saturday I saw Ms. Raychelle I would buy a tub of her homemade pickles, she would give me a free-gift-with-purchase and then ask about my life. Talking with local farmers like her and food vendors made me feel right at home. Rarely do you get the chance to speak with anyone in the produce department of a commercial grocery store. But I think it is this unique, intimate relationship that makes all farmers markets special. Purchasing my weekly fruits and veggies from the person that actually grew them makes the entire experience so much more meaningful. Immediately, you get a sense of the time and dedication it took to produce the stocked crates displayed neatly on the tables in front of you. The smiles on their faces are evidence that this is truly their passion.
Since its inception in 1989 the Charleston Farmers Market has received multiple awards. After revitalization and relocation back to Marion Square in 2005, the CFM received the Three Sisters Award from the Charleston Save the City Committee and in 2008 it was recognized at one of the top 10 best farmers markets in the nation by Travel and Leisure magazine. The CFM has also been named the Best Outdoor Event by the Charleston City Paper reader’s poll in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. It was also recently ranked number 9 in the “Best Coasts Farmers’ Market” by Coastal Living. If for some crazy reason you have yet to visit Marion Square on Saturdays then you are in for a real treat!
Over the last few years I have seen the market grow from a small crowd of dedicated market-goers to crowds of hundreds made up of local families and students and visitors from afar. The massive list of participants is now over 100 and offers something for everyone. Whether you are stocking up on produce for the week, craving a delicious meal or searching for souvenirs to bring home, it can all be found at this farmers market. There are even representatives from the Master Gardener program onsite ready to help you with any gardening quandaries you may have.
In honor of opening day, special events have been planned to celebrate the first farmers market of the season. In addition to the traditional unveiling of the official Charleston Farmers Market poster, there will be cooking demonstrations by local restaurants and farmers and musical entertainment by YeeHaw Junction. The Sixth Annual Push Up & Up Challenge will also take place, a competition supporting
programs in dropout prevention and benefiting Communities In Schools of the Charleston Area.
Treat yourself and partake in a Charleston tradition, whether it will be your first or fiftieth visit to the market. Bring the family (even the dog! Pets are welcome) and make a day out of it. Start with a quick meal from one of the food tents and dine alfresco, then make your way through the market maze purchasing all sorts of goodies to bring home. If lounging is more your thing, bring a chair and simply sit back and enjoy the music. Either way, the Charleston Farmers Market is a great ending to a busy week and an even more perfect beginning to a lovely weekend!