Promoting Local Foods With the Farmers’ Market Alliance

— Written By Annie Mills
en Español / em Português

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The pandemic has strained many aspects of life in the last few years, disrupting supply chain issues in the food system and exacerbating preexisting food security challenges to name a few. According to the 2021 Piedmont Triad Regional Food Assessment between 2019 and 2020 15% of adults fell below the poverty rate in Randolph County, there was a 12% increase in food nutrition services needed, and a 9% increase in child food insecurity. However, Randolph County is home to 620 food businesses that bring in $2.9 billion in annual sales with $199 million in food sales staying in the Piedmont Triad. Randolph is home to roughly 89 farms that sell direct to consumer sales, over $1,928,000 produced in vegetables alone and we are in the top 10 counties in the state for value of food sold directly to consumers according the 2017 USDA Agriculture Census. When we think of fresh produce and local foods, farmers’ markets often come to mind and Randolph County is actually home to five.

All the markets operate independently from one another, but each has the potential to promote rural livelihood and farmland, stimulate the local economy, increase fresh nutritious foods, and support healthy habits in our community. Thus, in early 2021 the Randolph County Farmers’ Market Alliance was born as a partnership between the farmers market managers, Randolph County Cooperative Extension, and the Tourism Development Authority in an effort to develop a directed approach to strengthening these assets to our county. Markets include: the Eastern Randolph Farmers Market, Randleman, Archdale, Asheboro, and Liberty. The first task of the Market Alliance was to assess the current state of the markets and decide how we could work together towards providing a profitable place for local entrepreneurs to sell while meeting the needs of customers and the community.

To gain a better perspective on ways to support the markets, Randolph County Cooperative Extension created and distributed surveys for market vendors, customers, and market managers as an initial assessment. The survey was distributed in the summer of 2021 and have helped the Market Alliance learn more about topics related to the farmers’ markets such as EBT acceptance, food waste, vendor income from market sales, and customer satisfaction. Over 200 responses were received and are now being used as a guide for the upcoming market season. Survey results included 90 responses from vendors, 106 from customers and 3 responses from market managers. A few main findings about customers were that 33% of current farmers’ market customers visit a market once a week and 33% of customers spend more than $50 a year at the markets. Main findings related to vendors were that 30% of vendors make 50% or more of their sales at the markets each year, indicating that sales from the markets can serve as a substantial part of income for local farms and businesses.

2022 Randolph County Farmers’ Market Alliance goals prioritize raising more awareness of the markets in Randolph County. We will create promotional materials such as posters, signs and banners that advertise the markets as group and distribute these strategically around the county. We will also be working to increase the social media presence of the markets so customers can check and see when their favorite vendors are there, listing the markets on the Visit NC Farms App, in visitors’ centers, and on the Randolph County Tourism Development Authority website. Although we are still in the beginning stages of the Market Alliance, this new partnership provides great potential to strengthen one aspect of our local food economy through strengthening our local farmers’ markets. If you would like to keep up with market happenings and more agrotourism events in Randolph County, you can download the Visit NC Farm App at the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. Below we have also included the 2022 Farmers Market schedules.

Archdale Farmers Market (Creekside Park)

100 Park Dr., Archdale, NC 27263

May 19 – September 15, Thursday 2 p.m.- 6 p.m.

Asheboro Farmers Market

134 S. Church St., Asheboro, NC 27203

May 1 – October 31, Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday, 7 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Eastern Randolph Farmers Market

506 Parks Crossroads Church Rd., Ramseur, NC 27316

Saturdays, May 7 – August 27, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Liberty Farmers Market

423 W. Swannanoa Ave., Liberty, NC 27298

April 1 – October 31, 7 days a week, dawn to dusk

Randleman Farmers Market

128 Commerce Square, Randleman, NC 272317

Open 7 days a week, dawn to dusk

Generally, Monday – Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. (seasonal)