Savannah Scott

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Rock Hill’s Old Town Farmers Market, which helps connect the community with small businesses in South Carolina, opened last month for a fifth season that will run until November.

The weekly market, which opened April 3, has about 20 vendors a week with about 16 regular farmers and four rotating farmers. It’s open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon in the Legal Remedy Brewing Company parking lot located off of Oakland Avenue.

This market, which celebrated its four year anniversary in April, is different than others, because it has a focus on farm and produce, as opposed to some markets that mostly feature craft vendors.

“You may see that dynamic happening at other markets where it’s just all crafts and that is because the farmers can’t survive in that environment,” said Sarah Key, manager of the Old Town Farmers Market.

“So, I took the initiative to say ‘Hey, we’re going to be a farm and food base only.’ There needs to be focus on the farmer and there needs to be support for the farmers,” said Key.

Organizers say this focus has helped some of the participating small businesses grow.

Vicky Pennington, owner of Pennington Produce & Baked Goods, originally started off growing tomatoes, but has now focused on selling other produce with the help and partnership of other local farmers.

“We’ve just grown by leaps and bounds and we got a clientele now. People come to us every week. The media coverage has been great,” Pennington said. “Sarah (Key) has been great and she’s been really positive for the market.”

The market provides the community with fresh produce from the vendors.

“Well they can get fresh vegetables. Homegrown and I don’t use no kind of chemicals,” said Charlie Tillman, owner of Shag Farm. “I got a guy that has got bees around me and I give him authority to come on my farm anytime they get ready to look and make sure there’s no chemicals there.”

The market is in partnership with Legal Remedy, which has allowed more opportunities for small businesses by allowing vendors to work with the local restaurant chain.

For example, Legal Remedy’s second location at the Rock Hill Riverwalk specializes in farm to table dishes, including fresh produce that can be found at the farmers market.

“We set up the farmers market to meet with all the vendors and learn what they do and all their products and then from there it just kind of grew,” said Brooke Wilson, the executive chef for the Legal Remedy.

“There needs to be focus on the farmer and there needs to be support for the farmers. My favorite part about the farmers market is the community,” Key said. “It’s just something about good people and good food and you can’t really get around that. We want you to eat fresh (and) local.”

Key said because the market is held from April to November, it has allowed a number of businesses to grow and some people have even quit other jobs to farm full-time.

Key plans to expand the market to include as many as 100 farms, within the next five years.