Sullivan’s Island joins crowded field of local farmers markets

Sullivan’s Island Elementary School teacher April Stephens is all smiles after she talked to some of her students at The Sullivan’s Island Farmers Market on a recent Thursday. Stephens also picked up a plant to take home with her.

SULLIVAN’S ISLAND — Deann Roddy of Mount Pleasant was checking out the festivities at the new farmers market in front of the Edgar Allan Poe Library.

“I buy a lot of my vegetables at the farmers markets. The quality is definitely there. They last longer, too,” she said Thursday.

Strawberries, snow peas, oysters, shrimp, sweetgrass baskets, jewelry and photography were among the items for sale. Music filled the air as a guitarist and fiddler played. A police officer strolled the grounds politely checking to see if dogs were registered with the town.

The fledgling Sullivan’s market offers fresh, local produce as well as a chance to bond with neighbors, said Councilwoman Sarah Church.

“It’s much needed on Sullivan’s. We’ve had a lot of divisive issues, which I always feel is indicative that people care about how things are going out here. The result is a lot of friction,” Church said. “I feel like this has been a good effort in trying to mend the community.”

Issues that have split islanders include the management of the 100-acre maritime forest. Some see it as a unique natural resource, while others argue that it is a haven for rodents, coyotes and other pests. The town has fined at least one resident for illegally cutting down forest trees next to his property.

“The big thing for this island is the farmers market is something that is going to bring the community together,” said Lisa Darrow, assistant to Administrator Andy Benke.

The idea came from islander Mike Noll, who has a small backyard nursery, Church said.

“He came to us with a huge amount of research. He had all the different markets and what day they happen,” she said.

Noll collected more than 100 signatures in support of the farmers market for a petition that was presented to Town Council. He could not be reached for comment on Friday.

So far, the market has been well-received by the community, said Darrow, who manages the event with Church. It happens on Thursdays and is scheduled to run through June 30.

“We didn’t really know if it would work, but we thought it would be such an asset to the community that it was worth a try,” Church said.

South Carolina has more than 100 community-based markets that sell locally grown produce. There are seasonal farmers markets for Charleston and Johns Island on Saturdays, James Island on Sundays, Mount Pleasant on Tuesdays and Folly Beach on Wednesdays. Awendaw has a farmers market on the second Saturday of the month. The North Charleston/Hanahan market is on Thursdays and the Goose Creek and Summerville markets are on Saturdays. Cross has a farmers market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. In Moncks Corner, Saturday is farmers market day, according to the state Department of Agriculture website.

The state owns and manages three regional farmers markets in Columbia, Florence and Greenville, which provide consumers with a wide variety of locally grown produce and specialty products. A listing of South Carolina farmers markets and days of operation is available at agriculture.sc.gov/farmers-market.

Sullivan’s Mayor Pat O’Neil expressed his support for the farmers market at the town website. The market had many more vendor applications than space, he said.

“That’s a great problem to have. Let’s all support this great new way to promote healthier eating and island community,” he said.

The town has received 80 applications to participate in the market. At the third farmers market on Thursday, there were 20 vendors and five nonprofit groups such as the Audubon Society and Clemson Extension Service. Audubon provides information on its bird banding activities in the maritime forest, Church said.

Reach Prentiss Findlay at 843-937-5711.