Late opening day at Robeson County Farmers Market well received

LUMBERTON — Despite cool weather, opening day at the Robeson County Farmers Market in Lumberton was well attended, masks and all.

Just over an hour after the market opened at 7 a.m. May 9, it was apparent that customers, who have been shut in during the coronavirus pandemic, hungered for the return of fresh fruits and vegetables to their menus.

“We are just about sold out of broccoli and strawberries,” Hannah Jackson, of Jackson Farms, said that day.

There are a number of ambitious developments planned for 2020 market season, including new hours, community-supported agriculture boxes and craft booths. Innovations will be phased in.

The market, at Eighth and Elm streets, will be open Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday hours remain the same, opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 1 p.m.

“Wednesday will be the day for pickup of CSA boxes,” said April Pittman, who is in her second year as market manager. “Afternoon hours are more convenient for customers.

“CSA, or community supported agriculture, will offer several options between vegetables, local meat, eggs and other ‘Got to be NC’ certified products with prices ranging from $75 for four produce boxes a month to a total package at $215 monthly, which includes fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs and other value added products.”

The CSA program will run June through September. Pickups will be 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays.

“Everything is grown locally and all the meat products are certified, including grass-fed beef from Moore Brothers in Prospect, free-range pork from Farmsland in Parkton and cage-free chicken from Jackson Farms in St. Pauls,” Pittman said. “The only thing from outside the county will be cheese from Ithaca Acres Creamery.”

Interested market customers can go online to robesoncountyfarmersmarket.com for more information.

“CSA programs are popular because they are convenient for customers and offer a variety of seasonal produce,” Pittman said.

The manager wants to add value and interest to the Farmers Market. Baked goods and crafts may be in the future.

“I would love to have a food truck too,” Pittman said.

Openings for craft vendors will be phased in as the season progresses, she said. Art, soap, jewelry, pottery, clothing and more are possibilities.

Vendor memberships are $25 per year, and a booth runs $75 a year or $5 a day. All crafts must be made in Robeson County.

Market vendors are required to wear masks. Customers are asked to wear masks and observe social distancing rules.

“Many farmers are suffering from a loss of restaurant revenue,” Pittman said. “Hopefully, the CSA program will help them.”

The market started later this year because of the pandemic, but local farmers had no complaints on opening day.

Daniel Jackson, who operates Jackson Farms, said the late start is not a problem.

“It’s been a cool spring and everything is late,” Jackson said. “A late frost killed my squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and melon plants.

“We’re replanting, so it will even out as the nights get warmer.”

.neFileBlock {
margin-bottom: 20px;
}
.neFileBlock p {
margin: 0px 0px 0px 0px;
}
.neFileBlock .neFile {
border-bottom: 1px dotted #aaa;
padding-bottom: 5px;
padding-top: 10px;
}
.neFileBlock .neCaption {
font-size: 85%;
}

Robeson County Farmers Market Manager April Pittman, right, makes a purchase May 9 from Hannah Jackson, of Jackson Farms. The market opened May 9 and customers are asked to wear masks and practice social distancing rules.
https://www.robesonian.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/web1_Farmers-Market.jpgRobeson County Farmers Market Manager April Pittman, right, makes a purchase May 9 from Hannah Jackson, of Jackson Farms. The market opened May 9 and customers are asked to wear masks and practice social distancing rules.

Scott Bigelow

Contributing correspondent