Pack up your cooler and your sense of adventure for a farmers market road trip this weekend. May 5th is the opening day of the Travelers Rest Farmers Market in South Carolina. It’s about an hour south of Asheville and market manager Valerie Richardson says the nearby outdoor activities make it a good day trip.
“We’re right on the Swamp Rabbit Trail so it’s a destination for folks who are coming from Western North Carolina,” Richardson says. “Put your bike on the back of the car and come down. You can park at the market and ride your bike from there, so bring a cooler and pack up all of your goodies. I hope that’s one of the things that’s unique about us is that we are in a park.”
All of that outdoor space encourages people to connect with each other, explains market assistant coordinator Maranda Williams. She says people get a grassroots feeling when they come to the Travelers Rest market.
“We’re nestled right under Paris Mountain and that’s the backdrop to our market. The farmers are right there, so you’re not rushed, you’re not pushed, people can linger,” Williams says. “It allows space and time to really build relationships with the farmers and I think that really instills the community aspect of it. You’re not just there to get your groceries and run. You’re building relationships and you’re getting wholesome food.”
Those relationships can be especially important in rural areas. Although Travelers Rest is only 20 minutes from the city of Greenville, South Carolina, much of the surrounding area is rural farmland.
“We are so spread out,” Richardson exclaims. “Gosh, we have farmers from Western North Carolina, Pickens County, and Polk County that all come together to bring their wares and their goods.”
“We like to visualize our market as a wheel,” Williams adds. “We would be nothing without our farmers and our vendors. We’re simply a platform. So we’re like the hub of the wheel and our farmers and vendors are the spokes. Without them we have no momentum, and no way to turn. So the more vendors we have, the more farmers we have, that is what really propels this larger food system. It takes these things from the past like heritage and lost skill sets and hard work ethic and gives it momentum in a way to be relevant to the future.”
Like many markets, Travelers Rest has special events throughout the spring, summer, and fall to help draw in new people and celebrate the season.
“May 5th is the plant and flower festival,” Richardson says. “So if you haven’t got [plants] in the ground by then you certainly have an opportunity to do that. All of the herbs and the starter plants will be there for you to start your own home garden. On June 30th, we’ve got an Independence Day celebration an old timey watermelon seed spitting contest. It’s loads of fun with the kids.”
In August there’s a folk craft day with blacksmithing, pottery, and weaving demonstrations. Richardson says these programs help people connect with the region’s farmers and artisans.
“We want to support these family farms who work so tirelessly,” Richardson says. “It’s their passion and of course we want to share that with the community. We want people to eat good food, wholesome food from the land that’s not being shipped across country that still has nutritional value. We want to support the local farmers.”
Learn more about the Travelers Rest Farmers Market, and other markets near and far in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide www.appalachiangrown.org