The Surry County Cooperative Extension Center operates a seasonal farmers market in Elkin, Mount Airy, and this year for the first time in Pilot Mountain. Last week marked the grand opening of the three local farmers markets.
With 19 vendors signed up to participate in any or all three markets and the addition of the Pilot Mountain market, this season is off to a great start, said Joanna Radford, Surry County extension agent of Agricultural and Natural Resources.
The Mount Airy Farmers Market is held every Tuesday from 3:30 to 6 p.m., in the parking lot beside the Mount Airy Post Office on South Main Street.
The Elkin Farmers Market is held in the Town Hall parking lot each Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. The new Pilot Mountain Farmers Market will be held in downtown Pilot, across from The Living Room Coffeehouse and Winebar, every Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m.
Radford said all vendors have the option to attend any market they wish, or all three. In fact, she said more inquiries are arriving, so there may be more vendors added as the season progresses and more produce is available.
This week market vendors are expected to have a variety of products for sale, including eggs, basil, cilantro, oregano, lavender, marjoram, parsley, eucalyptus, marigolds, vegetable plants, ground hamburger, sirloin steak, stew beef, hot and mild sausage, pork ribs, ground lamb, lamb chops, Moravian-style sugar cake, blueberry muffins, cranberry walnut bread, blueberry sugar cake, spelt banana bread and goat’s milk soap. There also may be a vendor with lettuce, Swiss chard and onions.
Local produce is usually available beginning in May, but some vendors planted early and may have produce available prior to that time, said Radford.
Radford said she hopes to stay in the post office parking lot for the Mount Airy farmers market after a few location changes during past years. “We hope to stay unless we can get a permanent location for the market. The parking lot offers a great location and lots of room, plus it is convenient and flat with a few trees,” said Radford.
Later in the season, as soon as the N.C. State Farmers Market director sends approval, the market will continue to accept WIC and senior food vouchers. Radford explained that they must wait until a time when the “produce is coming in regularly with a large supply.” Vendors who accept WIC and senior vouches have undergone training in order to provide their produce to those enrolled in the programs, which are available through the local Health and Nutrition Center in Dobson.
The farmers market was revamped a couple of years ago, according to Radford, to add more regulations and farm inspections to the requirements. All vendors must sign up prior to the market and complete their farm inspections prior to operating, explained Radford, “The extension office goes out and makes sure they are growing what they say they are growing. Everything sold is verified to be fresh and local and we make sure that it is coming from the farm or person you buy it from.”
In addition, vendors who sell baked goods, jams, sauces and similar homemade products must receive an inspection and approval by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, which conducts kitchen inspections.
Vendors who sell canned goods such as pickles and salsas must pass what Radford said is commonly known as “pickle school:” a three-day certification event held in Asheville. The $500 workshop teaches proper canning techniques and conducts tests throughout with a passing grade on the final test required before participants are able to market their products.
Also, anyone who sells meat at the farmers markets must have a meat handlers license from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and must be processed at an official meat processing facility and packaged in frozen, sealed packages.
Surry County’s extension website has a link to the Surry County Farmers Market, which anyone may visit to receive updates about locally available products and produce, http://surry.ces.ncsu.edu/site-surry-2/.
For more information about the local farmers markets, contact Joanna Radford at email@example.com or 401-8025.
Reach Jessica Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1933.