Local farmers are gaining support for an Effingham County farmers’ market with plans for the market’s inaugural event, a fall harvest festival, approved and sponsored by the city of Springfield.
The event is intended as a preview for vendors and visitors alike to see what they’ll gain by having the Effingham County farmers’ market as a permanent part of the economy and culture in the county.
"This has been pretty well received from the farmers I’m talking to," Melissa Reagan, local grower with the Madrac Farms produce delivery service and stand, said to Springfield City Council. "We want this to happen to show the county as farmers and artisans that we have the audience."
Reagan is spearheading the festival and the county market. She said it will be "a true back-to-how-things-used-to-be market."
"We feel like we can support our county ourselves," Reagan said. "Georgia can feed itself. It really, really can. We’ve got everything here to sustain ourselves."
The Springfield City Council signed on as the event’s first sponsor at its
Aug. 30 meeting. Reagan has secured the Methodist Campground across from the fairgrounds as the venue for the inaugural festival. Reagan said the event will introduce residents to the benefits of a local farmer’s market: enjoying the freshest produce, knowing where it came from, supporting local growers and keeping that money in the county.
The event is planned for the last day of the Effingham County Fair, on Oct. 22 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. It will feature produce, flowers and other plants from growers in and around the county and throughout the state.
"You can’t usher in products from somewhere else like a broker does," Reagan said. "Some roadside stands do that. You have to actually grow it yourself."
In addition to providing wholesome local produce, Reagan has invited local craftsmen and artisans to bring their wares to the fall harvest festival and the farmers’ market. Reagan plans to have a knife maker, glass painter and other crafts in addition to homemade breads, sauces, jams, jellies and relishes at the October market.
There also will be educational demonstrations at the fall harvest festival for customers to learn how to properly store local produce once it’s out of season and how to cook using local, seasonal produce.
"When you buy in bulk, you save money," Reagan said. "So if you can learn to put up butterbeans or peaches or greens for the entire season and save them for later when they’re not in season, it saves you money. It’ll take a little time, but this is the way people had to do it before we had mega superstores that ship things in from all over the world. You know that it’s fresher and you know that it’s probably treated with less, less chemicals on it."
While the parents shop the different booths, kids will enjoy face painting with United Way and making their own scarecrows with Burns Insurance.
Springfield City Manager Brett Bennett hopes the farmers’ market will eventually use the parking lot by City Hall for its weekly selling. Although this won’t be feasible until the city’s streetscape project has been completed, Bennett thinks the market will be a litmus test for the future repurposing of the City Hall building.
"I think it’ll be a good trial to see if something like that could work in this building," he said. "If it is successful, it gives us more incentive to do something with this building.
"I’m excited about it, and more than anything, how it would work in the back of this building."
Reagan expects the Effingham County Farmers’ Market to open on a weekly basis in Springfield next April, possibly on Thursday or Friday evenings to avoid competition with established Statesboro and Savannah markets and to allow vendors in those markets an opportunity to come to Effingham as well.
"I think it’s something we need to have in this county, and I’m glad we’re getting the opportunity here," Bennett said.
Vendor applications for the fall harvest festival should be available this week at Springfield City Hall and Effingham County Chamber of Commerce. Reagan will have some as well.
For more information, or to set up a sponsorship of the event, see the Effingham County Farmers Market page on Facebook or call Reagan at (912) 704-7651.