Stacie Moore and her son Chris Moore pick out apples from Smith's Nursery at the Clayton Farm and Community Market.
CLAYTON -- Although Friday marked the first day of fall, the Clayton Farm and Community Market is in full swing with roughly a month left in its regular season.
While the vendors might have diminished to only nine or 10 as popular summer produce such as strawberries and peaches have gone out of season, others are keeping the market open with fall vegetables, apples aplenty, and even jewelry, cheese and homemade ginger ale.
For most vendors, the season has been hit or miss, with some Saturdays more profitable than others.
Michele Hall, who sells for Smith’s Nursery out of McGee’s Crossroads, said it’s worth it to stay open to sell off the farm’s fall produce, such as apples, butternut squash and okra.
“Now that we’re getting into fall, there’s been less foot traffic,” Hall admits. “It’s slow, but it’s worth it because there are a lot of fall vegetables.”
During Saturday’s market, a steady trickle of people came through to see what was for sale.
Bob Harper, who sells for Whitfield Farm out of Newton Grove, has been at the market every Saturday since it opened in April. He said most weeks are relatively slow but not slow enough for his farmer to consider pulling out of the market next year.
“You’ve got to have an outlet for produce,” Harper said.
But this year has been tough from the production standpoint as well.
With the blasting heat this summer, Harper said a lot of crops, such as peaches and watermelon, ended early.
Harper said more people need to realize that the market is there through October with plenty to offer.
“Word of mouth is the biggest thing to help get some more people down here,” he said.
Others expect the market to pick back up some in October as people start coming out to buy fall greens. In fact, since North Carolina has a strong winter growing season, the market board is working on having a winter market open once or twice a month from January through March.
“Part of it is to keep the market going year-round, and the farmers are investing in the infrastructure to grow year-round,” said Leslie Hubbard, a member of the board and a vendor. “People get used to having fresh vegetables, and then they have to go back to the grocery store.”
The market will host its annual holiday markets before Thanksgiving and Christmas, bringing people out to buy ingredients for holiday meals, pies and flowers.
For Melrose Haas, the community is what she enjoys most about coming to the market. In her second growing season at Melrose’s Farm, a flower farm in Smithfield, Haas says the market gives her a chance to advertise the farm and get to know other farmers.
“I like to come here, and it’s not all about me; it’s about the community. Even if I can’t make sales, I get to meet people and tell them about the flower farm,” Haas said.
In the coming season, board member and jewelry vendor Crystal White says she hopes they can bring more artists to the market, as well as community groups who can set up tents to attract members or promote charities.
“That would bring more people out and kind of get that feel of a united community,” White said. “We’d like to have every aspect (of the community) represented here.”