Starting this Saturday, thousands will once again flock downtown to shop on brick streets lined with tents selling produce, eggs and dairy, meat, and much more from local vendors.
The inaugural market of the season opens at 8 a.m. on April 1, marking the 20th year of operations for the Riverfront Farmers' Market. Each week, the market gathers close to 50 vendors on the stretch of Dock Street between Second and Water streets, including a core group of about 20 farmers and other producers who sell food alongside a revolving selection of artisans who bring variety to the weekly offerings.
“The market is ever-changing,” said James Christopher, of Cool Wilmington, the organization that manages the market. “Really, no two markets are ever the same because we have a rotating crew of vendors that change every couple of weeks.”
Two of the farmers on the regular docket – Backyard Gardeners and Hanchey’s Produce – have faithfully attended the market each season since its inception 20 years ago, Christopher noted. New vendors this year include purveyors of coffee, dog treats, honey, meat, popcorn, produce and duck eggs, the latter of which Christopher identified as ideal for local bakers. With fattier yolks and protein-rich whites, duck eggs are purported to produce more indulgent, fluffier baked goods.
The variety in each week’s lineup of vendors is the result of a recent effort to extend the market’s reach, allowing it to provide a platform for burgeoning businesses to introduce their products to the community.
“We try to increase our reach to local entrepreneurs. We’ve had a lot of people start at the market who are now going on to open brick-and-mortar stores,” Christopher said.
Little Loaf Bakery and Schoolhouse is an example Christopher cited of a Riverfront Farmers' Market vendor who now operates a Wrightsville Avenue storefront
“The reason she’s opening a brick-and-mortar is because she works really hard and she has an amazing product,” Christopher said. “We were fortunate that she joined the Riverfront Farmers’ Market and it worked out that it was a really good venue for her to introduce her brand and build it up.”
Other examples of this trend listed by Christopher include Cheeky Monkey Coffee and Shark Bite Jewelry.
With as many as 3,000 attendees each Saturday during peak season, the Riverfront Farmers’ Market allows vendors to reach a larger audience. Christopher described the weekly market as a “destination” for both locals and tourists.
“It’s always free to come down to the market. It’s a great place to bring the family or friends, if you have friends visiting from out of town,” Christopher said.
The Riverfront Farmers' Market operates 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. every Saturday from April 1 through Nov. 18, with the exception of April 15 and Oct. 7, when the market closes for the N.C. Azalea Festival and Wilmington Riverfest respectively. A newsletter
, sent on Thursdays, shares the vendors slated for each weekly market.
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