Business opportunity waiting for takers

By Chrysta Carroll -

ELIZABETHTOWN — Garden time — it’s the season to which some people look forward all year — getting their bare feet and hands covered in dirt, determined once again to battle God’s curse on the ground. Those who live for such a time cherish the days they can hold in their hands the fruit of their labor, and they know that, as wonderful as the supermarket is, fresh, home-grown produce cannot be beat.

It’s a wonder, then — if more than a handful of people feel this way — that the Farmers Market in Elizabethtown isn’t constantly bustling with activity.

“The farmers market is open six days a week with tenants, and it gets used regularly,” said Elizabethtown Town Manager Eddie Madden, “but we would love to see an increase in foot traffic with regard to vendors.”

When the town opened the market, the idea was to have a site for local growers to sell their wares all day, six days a week. Vendors could rent the space for a nominal fee and come whenever they harvested their crop, any time of the day, for as long or as short a time as they wished.

Town leaders are still, however, in the process of tweaking the guidelines.

“People want to know that if they come on certain days, farmers and vendors will be there,” explained Madden. “We simply need to redefine the days and hours the market is open.”

While the hours are in the process of being adjusted, the town has already made another change, one that allows produce from outside of Bladen County to be sold.

“My interest is making sure we have a thriving farmers market, and we want to see variety of vendors and a variety of produce for citizens to choose from. Where it comes from is irrelevant,” said Madden.

He added about bringing in outside produce, “We’ve got great location in the center of town where hundreds, if not thousands, of people visit often. It’s a tremendous business opportunity for someone to take advantage of, and we’re here to help.”

“We’ve got one of the best markets in the state,” he went on to say. “We get a lot of compliments on the facility, but for it to be a success, we need more farmers at the market.”

The town charges $7 per day, and uses the honor system of payment.

Since the town owns the vacant lot adjoining the market, leaders have been tossing around some ideas about possible uses for the site, and one that seems to be getting a foothold, and one that is possibly related to the farmers market, is a community garden.

“It’s something we’ve been tossing around and talking about,” said Elizabethtown Planning Technician Billie Hall, “but it would definitely take a lot of help from the community.”

The reason behind having a community garden, such as benefiting a local food bank or using the harvest to supply local school cafeterias, varies from community to community, and Hall reported that the town is still in the planning stages and has not yet decided on a purpose behind the idea.

“If anyone has any suggestions or wants to put in some elbow grease, we welcome both,” she said.

For now, the farmers market is open during daylight hours Monday through Saturday. Anyone interested in selling at the market can contact the town at 910-862-2066.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

By Chrysta Carroll

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