HENDERSON — Vance County Regional Farmers Market will kick off the 2021 season with a Spring Fling on Saturday.
Farmers Market manager Tracy Madigan said they will have “a very good mix” of canned goods, jams and jellies, baked goods, plants, vegetable slips, painted glassware and crafts in addition to local produce.
The day’s events will begin at 8 a.m. and continue until 2 p.m.
Thirty vendors have signed up to display their wares, Madigan said. “We have six or seven vendors who have never sold with us before and a lot of old favorites.”
Paul McKenzie, Cooperative Extension Service agricultural agent for Vance and Warren counties, said Master Gardener volunteers will be on hand to give visitors a tour of the memorial garden in front of the market and to pass out information. In addition to the beauty it adds to the location, the garden features a variety of plants that are good for pollinators — bees and butterflies — that are vital to the reproduction of many plants.
In the weeks following the Spring Fling, the Farmers Market will move to regular Saturday operating hours of 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. through May. After that it will be open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. through September. Exceptions to that schedule will occur when the Market holds three Special Twilight Markets from 3 to 7 p.m. on June 29, July 27 and Aug. 24 in lieu of Wednesday markets.
COVID precautions will be observed at the Farmers Market. Masks are mandatory. Customers are advised to use hand sanitizers and maintain social distances. A hand-washing station will be available.
The Farmers Market’s janitorial service uses an antiviral cleaner that protects against COVID-19 but is safe for foods, Madigan said. “We don’t take any chances.”
McKenzie pointed out that the Farmers Market made a commitment to stay open in 2020 to give vendors an opportunity to sell their products. But the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative effect on activities and finances.
The customer count in 2020 was down 42% from the year before, Madigan said. The number of produce vendors was down, but that deficit was partly made up by an increase in the number of craft vendors. Because many of their events had been canceled, craft vendors took advantage of the Farmers Market as an outlet for their handiwork. .
Madigan said feedback from the vendors that did use the market indicated that, although they had fewer customers, the customers that came bought more.
The Farmers Market has two sources of revenue, vendor fees and rental of the facility, she said. Income from vendor fees was down about 10% in 2020.
But it was a different story with rental fees. The Farmers Market shut down at the end of February 2020 because of the pandemic. While the facility had been rented 12 times in 2019, it was rented only twice in 2020. It is still not available for rent.
Madigan, who has managed the Farmers Market since it opened in 2014, recently accepted the position of director of the Henderson Downtown Development Commission. It was a tough decision to leave the Farmers Market position, she said. However, she will continue as manager for its Saturday openings through May or until a new manager is hired.