ELIZABETHTOWN — The Cape Fear Farmer’s Market in downtown Elizabethtown may finally start being what the town hoped for from the beginning.
When the town opened the Farmer’s Market n 2011, town officials had high hopes for its success. Burney’s Sweets & More decided to make the spot its home, and Inman’s Deli was housed at the location early on. The Elizabethtown-White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce’s Summer Sounds Concert Series has brought thousands to the venue during its tenure thus far, and the spot even saw President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law stop in for a campaign visit.
Two things have been missing, however — farmers and their wares.
“We have farmers who want to sell their produce, and we have people who want to buy locally-grown food. The need is there,” said Town Manager Eddie Madden in 2016. “The problem is they’re not at the Market at the same time.”
To stimulate interest, the town formed a committee comprised of Madden, Planning and Zoning coordinator Billie Hall, four Cooperative Extension agents, and various individuals with civic, business, education, and horticulture interests.
At the town’s recent Budget Planning Retreat, Hall informed the Town Council of the committee’s ideas for the Market, including:
- Classes at the Extension Office teaching people how to grow for the local market.
- Revising the rules, which Hall said, after receiving feedback, the committee has determined to be too restrictive.
- Evaluating fees. In order to encourage participation, the committee is considering not charging fees for a set time — until vendors establish some success — or possibly not charging fees at all.
- Planning additional activities like cooking demonstrations and promotion of seasonal items.
- Honing in on one day. Thought the Market would be open six days a week, one day — maybe “Farm Fresh Friday” — would be promoted as a day for both vendors and visitors to know they can find one another.
- Encouraging participation on late Saturday afternoons before special events.
- Establishing a commercial incubator kitchen on site. The plan would be to have a shared kitchen for food entrepreneurs or new restaurants in order to help them get on their feet while creating jobs and spurring economic development.
Hall stressed that the suggestions are just ideas right now, but ideas about which the committee is excited.
“We want to see it hustle and bustle and be the center of downtown, and I think we can do that,” commented Hall to council members.
“I’m really excited about what’s going on at the Market,” agreed Councilman Ricky Leinwand.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.