It’s the best way to spend a Saturday. The Charleston Farmers Market has been putting local growers, makers, and doers on an accessible platform since 1989. The market has won either or both CP’s “Best Outdoor Event” category and “Best Attraction” for the past nine years, and for good reason. Not only does the market carefully curate their vendors through an application process, they also listen to what their customers want. “Let’s say we have one baker and they’re selling out by noon every single Saturday, at that point we may recruit or just look through applications for those who applied to bring in and supplement that demand,” says market manager Harrison Chapman.
Chapman has been managing the market for seven years; he says in recent years, customers have specifically been asking for more vegan products (they’ve got a new vegan vendor for 2019, Annie O Love Granola); on the flip side, more meat options, probably a result of consumers becoming more familiar with sustainable butchering practices; more heirloom varieties of fruits and veggies; and more CBD products (Charleston Hemp Company is also new this year).
Chapman says they bring in seasonal vendors so customers are getting the freshest local produce possible (i.e.blueberries in June). And while the idea of a local farmers market bursting with color and activity is romantic, it’s not always freshly cut flowers and sunshine. One of the challenges Chapman notes is that, “I might get a phone call and farmers can’t show up because fields are flooded.” When that happens, they have to scramble to fill those voids. “We take it case by case,” he says.
Chapman’s market rules of thumb include: “Speak to the farmers about their produce and ask for their suggestions on how to prepare them best; grab a coffee or freshly prepared juice to browse the market and make decisions on what to purchase on your second time through; and visit the information booth near the live music, so we can help you navigate the market.”
This season, Chapman says to mark your calendars for May 18, when a brass quintet will perform and raffle off a car in advance of Piccolo Spoleto. Though he didn’t specify a date, Chapman did note that there will also be “flash mobs” popping up this year. And, as always, keep your eyes out for local celebs to make an appearance. “One of my favorite parts is seeing various Chefs like BJ Dennis — he’s there every Saturday hand picking out vegetables,” says Chapman. “And former mayor Riley very frequently zips right in to grab his tomatoes and zips right out.” —Mary Scott Hardaway
Runner-up: Second Sunday on King
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