National Farmers Market Week is Aug. 7-13. North Carolina has numerous reasons to celebrate this event because our state’s farmers markets provide residents with fresh, healthy food and support the efforts of local farmers. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 50 percent of farmers selling at farmers markets derive at least half their revenue from farmers market sales. Join us this week in thanking farmers and farmers market staff as we spotlight three N.C. farmers markets from the mountain, central and coastal regions of our state.
Don’t be fooled by the name – Riverfront Farmers Market is actually two markets, each with a distinct character.
“Riverfront is its own little market organization,” said BJ Ryan, market manager. “We have two market locations in the Wilmington area – downtown Wilmington on Saturdays, and Ogden Park on Wednesdays.”
Riverfront has had a downtown farmers market situated along the Cape Fear River since 2003. It opened a new location this year in northern Wilmington’s Ogden Park. Both locations are open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on their respective days from April to November.
The downtown market hosts 25 to 30 vendors each week and is frequented by tourists and natives alike.
“We love to have tourists, because we’ve got everything they need,” Ryan said, “We have basics like bread if they’re staying the week, fresh flowers for their tables and art and handicrafts for them to take home.”
Ogden Park has around 20 vendors and chiefly serves customers seeking healthy food without having to go downtown. Most of the downtown market’s vendors also sell their goods at Ogden Park.
“We have a huge variety of locally grown produce,” Ryan said. “Many of our farmers are certified organic.”
As you would expect on the coast, seafood is a big draw at Riverfront, which offers local seafood such as shrimp, scallops, crabs and clams by the pound, fresh or frozen.
Wilmington seafood restaurant Catch regularly sends its food truck to both market locations and is partnering with Riverfront for its National Farmers Market Week event on Aug. 10. Catch’s food truck will serve dishes such as crab cake BLT sliders and crispy fish tacos at Riverfront’s Ogden Park market from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and local club 4-H for Fun will offer activities for shoppers.
“It’s important for people to support local farmers and vendors,” Ryan said. “It keeps more money in the local economy and in small family farms.”
Riverfront also has baked goods, artisan jewelry, N.C. wine and “everything you can think of pickled,” she said. Locally roasted coffee is also popular.
“You can buy a cup to drink while you shop or take a bag of it home,” Ryan said.
Riverfront’s vendors come from eight surrounding counties, including Sampson, Duplin and Brunswick. Ryan and the market staff update customers about Riverfront through social media and a monthly e-newsletter.
“My favorite part of managing the market is getting to know the vendors and farmers and connecting them with customers to help them grow their business,” Ryan said.