By Shiela Haynes, Editor of The Winnsboro News
Vine-ripened tomatoes, home-canned jams and jellies, local honey, fresh-cut flowers, locally sourced meat, and fresh-baked goods are just a handful of reasons to make your way to the Winnsboro Farmers’ Market on a Saturday morning this fall. Open 8:00 a.m. to noon from the first week in April through the end of October, the market hosts as many as 600 visitors on any given Saturday.
There were about a dozen vendors in the market’s first iteration that began in 2009 and was located at the Jack Cross Pavilion at Winnsboro’s City Park. In 2014, the farmers’ market moved to the Market Street location. Stacy Finley, manager for the Farmers’ Market, said the weekly set up and tear down was rough. Each vendor brought their own tent and table, and Finley said hanging the banner each week was an undertaking in itself. But it was a positive move. More visibility led to more customers led to more vendors, a vicious cycle of the best kind. Weekly attendance doubled.
Impact of Covid-19
The 2020 opening of the market was filled with uncertainty due to the pandemic, but the decision was made to open as scheduled. For the first month or so, activity was somewhat limited. But by summer, the market was seeing record numbers of customers. “Last year felt explosive. People needed to get out. Open air felt a little safer. We were a destination for that,” said Finley.
The limited accessibility to fresh produce that had typically been available at the grocery store alarmed consumers and helped them better recognize the value of local goods. “It preached the importance of a local food system that was not dependent on distribution. It was an epic year,” said Finley. “Customers began to seek us out.”
In fall 2020, the Winnsboro City Council approved a measure to convert Market Street into a walkable pedestrian mall. The timeline was to close the street to vehicle traffic by June 2021. The market was averaging 450 customers each week. The increased patronage coupled with the pending changes to Market Street set the table for the construction of the new pavilions on Carnegie Street. “It was an opportune time to say, ‘Look, we are on the map. We are doing something needed. We need a home of our own now,’” said Finley.
Recognizing the positive impact on the community, the Winnsboro Economic Development Corporation approved funds to construct the pavilions that opened this past spring. With more space for vendors and expanded parking options, the market has boomed. Finley said many customers come from an hour or more away to check out the assortment of goods.
“More and better vendors have improved what the market has to offer, and savvy customers are shopping the market,” said Finley. “We have created the environment for that. Especially for the customers, it really sets the tone on educating them to care about the product they are getting, and that is the product that we provide. It comes full circle to where we really have a good following.”
More to Come
The Winnsboro Farmers' Market will continue operation through the end of October and will reopen in April 2022, each Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to noon at 111 East Carnegie Street in Winnsboro.
A Holiday Market is scheduled for Saturday, December 4 to coincide with the Christmas Parade and other downtown festivities. Finley expects 20 or more vendors providing gift-friendly offerings such as handmade birdhouses, handmade jewelry, cutting boards, fresh-baked cookies, and handmade soaps.