The Evans Towne Farmers Market has become the place to be on Thursday evenings.
“I am literally overcome with gratitude every time I see hundreds of people start pouring into the market area come 4:30 or 5 each Thursday evening,” said Kim Hines, market manager of Augusta Locally Grown, the umbrella under which the market operates.
“The folks in Columbia County have shown a strong sense of shared responsibility for the success of this market. It’s quickly become the people’s venue.”
The market features about a dozen farmers and an equal number of handicrafters, Hines said. With the addition of prepared-food vendors, community groups, activities, musicians and sponsors, there are about 40 booths each week.
“This exceeds our hopes for the early part of the season, especially with the limited fresh produce we had in cold, wet March,” said Hines. “We are committed to growing the farmers market even more as the weather warms and spring fruits emerge.
“Everyone who shows up to the market deserves credit. That’s the beauty of a farmers market. It should be noted that the volunteer spirit of local musicians has been remarkable. I think we’ve already filled every slot, and hope that patrons tip them generously.”
As a nonprofit, Augusta Locally Grown’s priority is farm vendors. The organization’s charter requires it to have farmers equal to or higher in number than craft vendors.
“This puts the pressure on me to find more farmers who meet our local and sustainable requirements,” she said. “It hasn’t been very easy to find these folks; we certainly need more of them in our area.
Slowly but surely, however, word is getting out among farmers that Columbia County is a viable, thriving consumer base for fresh, local food.”
Once more farmers get involved, ALG’s next priority will be to create more cooking and gardening demonstrations.
“It’s one thing to buy fresh bok choy; it’s another thing to make something delicious with it when you get home,” said Hines. “Fortunately, I know many great cooks who are willing to share a secret or two. Imagine what they could do with a cute little outdoor demo kitchen and a portable raised bed of fresh herbs. Nothing brings people together like good food, especially when free samples are involved.”
From the outset, the Columbia County Library has been the community partner in the Evans Towne Farmers Market venture.
“They shared in the vision of this market from the beginning and, by sharing their space, truly made it a reality,” said Hines. “Our original commitment is through June because everyone knows how miserable July in Georgia can be.”
Organizers are willing to talk about extending their season during the late summer and fall, but only at the library’s invitation, Hines said.
“And only if a critical number of farmers feel that it’s worth their while,” she said. “It needs to work for all of us if it’s going to be long-term.”
At last count, Hines said, there were five unsponsored weeks left in this year’s market. Individuals and/or businesses interested in becoming a sponsor can call Hines at (706) 288-7895.