ELIZABETHTOWN — The Cape Fear Farmer’s Market has become somewhat of a centerpiece for Elizabethtown’s downtown.
The Farmers Market became a reality in 2010 when the town purchased the property that formerly housed the Red & White grocery store from the Inman family. The building underwent extensive renovations in conjunction with the downtown revitalization project to create a state-of-the-art facility.
“The plan for the Cape Fear Farmer’s Market was to provide a gathering place for farmers/gardeners from across the county to bring vegetables, fruits, fresh cut flowers, and other locally grown items to a location where a high concentration of people would be gathering,” said Town Manager Eddie Madden.
He said town officials hoped that by creating “an adequate and attractive facility in a good location” close to the downtown area, it would draw people in, thereby benefiting the farmers or gardeners who set up to sell their goods there.
“We also expected that the customers generated by our anchor tenants would bring even more people to the Market and give farmers/gardeners greater exposure to a broader customer base,” said Madden.
The facility is designed with 20 parking spaces in the parking lot area that can be used by tailgate vendors, along with space indoors in the common area that can be used during inclement weather and days when it is unusually hot or cold. It is also home to anchor store Burney’s Sweets & More, which specializes in doughnuts, pastries, pies, cakes and plate lunches — as well as Capre Fear BBQ & Chicken, which runs its catering operation there.
The facility is also designed to host community events, crafts fairs and other festivities, said Madden.
“The CFFM is used often for reunions, birthday parties, political events, awards banquets, and civic meetings. It is also a place for the community college to offer classes and to host registration,” he added. “The Bladen County Extension office offers classes there and we hope they will continue to do so. The Chamber of Commerce is now hosting its Summer Sounds Concert Series at the Market, which has been a huge success.”
When asked how the vision for the market has changed over the years since it was opened in November 2011, Madden said that it remains the same.
“Our vision and purpose for the Market has not changed, but we hope that more farmers/gardeners will participate so we can give our visitors and residents a good experience when they visit,” said Madden.
He explained that the process to set up is really quite simple. The fee is $7 per day and an application is posted online at the town’s website and can be printed out and completed and dropped off along with the fee at the town hall or it can be mailed. Madden added that application can also be picked up at the town hall or from the Elizabethtown-White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.
While Burney’s Sweet’s & More is quite popular with town residents and visitors alike, the lack of local farmers and gardners supporting the facility is noticeable. Madden said the town is exploring ways to promote the CFFM.
“We are submitting a Farmer’s Market Promotion Grant application that will pay for a part-time market manager, promotional material, billboards, etc.,” he said. “We have a limited staff and we haven’t been in a position to dedicate much time to the promotion of the market but we hope that the Farmers Market Promotion grant will help us dedicate more resources to recruiting vendors and promoting the market throughout the county and across the region.”
The town also owns the vacant property adjacent to the Farmer’s Market and Madden said there are future plans for that site as well.
“The plans include an outdoor gazebo that would be large enough for performances, concerts, and other special events. As a part of the project, we will add parking, landscaping, and lighting. A site plan is available at Town Hall for the public to review,” said Madden.
He added that the future looks bright for the Farmer’s Market.
“Not only is the Cape Fear Farmer’s Market a beautifully restored facility that is known about throughout the state, but it is also a vital part of Elizabethtown. Since completing the renovations to the Market and finalizing Phase I of the downtown renovation project, we have seen a significant increase in business sales in our downtown area,” said Madden.
—Erin Smith can be reached at 910-862-4163.