Collards, crafts can be found at Very Local Holiday Festival

Mack Johnson Contributing columnist

Folks, save the date for the most unique shopping experience Robeson County has to offer!

Wouldn’t you love to shop for great, locally grown produce like sweet potatoes and collards while perusing authentic, locally crafted, one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts for that special someone who values genuine, original, handcrafted treasures?

Well look no further! I am very excited to announce that the Robeson County Farmers Market and North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, are preparing for our 7th annual Very Local Holiday Festival, so mark your calendars for Saturday, Dec. 5. The festival will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the market, located in downtown Lumberton at the corner of Eighth and Elm streets. So save your cash, and bring your plastic as well, since many of the craft vendors are able to take cards and offer contactless payments.

Of course, COVID-19 has brought along it’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended safety measures that will be practiced and encouraged with our vendors and patrons. Instead of the 3 W’s we will practice the 2 W’s and an S: Wear, Wait, and Sanitize. We will all wear a mask, we will patiently wait our turn to visit a booth to stay socially distanced from others, and we will sanitize our hands as often as we can using the many hand sanitizer bottles located throughout the market. We know that most shoppers really like to touch and handle the displayed merchandise — let’s keep that to a minimum though!

Unfortunately, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means there will not be any of the food samples that usually highlight our local produce and meat sold at the market. However, our office will provide you with tasty and nutritious recipes featuring items you can purchase at the market. Since we can’t offer food tastings, we have invited a few local food trucks to help satisfy your hunger, so you can focus on finding that perfect gift or at least some greens and sweet potatoes for your holiday meals.

Farmers markets are very trendy right now and gaining in popularity. We are very fortunate to have a farmers market in our home county. Interestingly, the Robeson County Farmers Market may be one of the longest continuously running farmers markets in the state, possibly opening as early as 1980, though no official documents exist to verify it’s birth. The market first opened at 2175 North Roberts Av. in Lumberton, under the outdoor shelter of what was then Agri-Supply, but is currently the home of The Robesonian. Small businesses, especially our farmers, are struggling to survive in this COVID-19 stricken economy, so remember; a dollar spent locally can turn over as many as nine times, building our local community.

Let’s continue to support our home-grown farmers market, and keep it thriving for years to come!

If you are interested in being a vendor at the festival or the farmers market, or for more information, contact Mack Johnson, Extension Horticultural agent, at 910-671-3276, by email at [email protected], or visit our website at http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu/.

Mack Johnson is a horticultural agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center. He can be contacted via email at [email protected] or by calling 910-671-3276.