To Market, To Market
From a neighborhood inkling to a city initiative, Isle of Palms’ inaugural farmers market looks to build on its success — and that of its neighbor’s — with a strong second year. By Emma Woodham Photos by Steve Rosamilia
It all began with a simple post on social media. In late 2016, Lewis Gregory asked his fellow island residents to support his proposal to the city council that Isle of Palms open a farmers market, like its neighbor Sullivan’s Island had done the previous year. Just a few months later, that proposal became a reality.
Gregory, who has called Isle of Palms his home for over a decade, gained support throughout the community and pitched the idea to council in March of 2017. Following the proposal, a citizens’ committee was formed, and councilmember Ted Kinghorn was appointed liaison to the group. Kinghorn was told that a previous council had voted against the market, and he was shocked to hear this. He said that the farmers market didn’t cost the city anything more than a few staff hours of work and thinks its beneficial for the island residents. “This is a service the city can host that brings citizens together, supports commerce, highlights the city and promotes healthy nutrition,” Kinghorn said.
During its inaugural year, the market was held at the Isle of Palms County Park and kicked off toward the end of August, so as not to conflict with Sullivan’s Island’s market, which runs through July.
The first season for the market saw nearly 50 rotating vendors and averaged 35 vendors at each market. Aside from fresh produce vendors, participants included artisans and a variety of food trucks. Volunteer Rebecca Stephenson, who worked with the vendors, said she tried to get as many on-island vendors as possible, but welcomes more in coming seasons.
Holy City Popcorn, Cookie Chick, Kona Ice, Coastal Pallet Art, King of Pops, Olinda Olives, Charleston Spice Co, and Foxy Fossils were just a handful of the vendors who participated in the inaugural island market. “Truly, my favorite part was meeting all the local artists, farmers, and culinary professionals,” Stephenson said.
The chance to participate in the Isle of Palms farmers market was exciting for Liz Firestone of Crescent Moon Apothecary because she liked the idea of exposure to both locals and tourists. As the season progressed, she noted more and more people attending the market, part of the reason she hopes to participate in the 2018 season. “I think the market was successful,” she said. “It had good attendance overall and people seemed excited to have a market on the island.”
Longtime island resident Kathy Magruder is happy that the island finally has a market and that she no longer has to travel off-island to find one. “I was thrilled that we would have our own farmers market on the island, as I often stop by the Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market. But this is convenient, close by, local,” Magruder said. She would like to see more vendors selling fruits and vegetables during the next market season.
Parking was the biggest issue the market faced in its inaugural year, and Gregory said this will be tackled in 2018, even going so far to consider a new location. “We’re working to provide free on-site parking, streamlining our vendors to include more food product variety, and maybe even adding wine and beer,” Stephenson says about 2018’s prospects. “The market will probably look very different this year,” Gregory said.