Tonight's Shopping by Lantern Light in downtown Statesboro will mark the culmination of another successful season for the Main Street Farmers Market.
Located in the Sea Island Bank parking lot, the shopping celebration will bring all of the Main Street vendors together for a grand finale featuring local food, arts and gifts.
"This will be the third year for Shopping by Lantern Light, and it is becoming a signature event for our region," said market manager Debra Chester. "It is the largest market of the season and the variety of produce, meats and plants, as well as unique crafts is inspiring. This is where you can purchase the freshest and safest foods for your Thanksgiving meals and gifts for the holidays, while supporting our local economy and specifically our market vendors."
According to Chester, the bank parking area will be transformed into an old fashioned market place with lantern lights providing a soft glow over choices to be made from the dozens of food and craft booths.
"Regular and new customers of the market will find all of the usual vendors plus some seasonal additions including fresh greenery for holiday decorations, plants and flowering bulbs, eggnog from the dairy and baked products made available just for holiday meals," said market manager Deborah Chester. "Hams, roasts and wild salmon can be purchased to make meals memorable using the freshest products."
While the festival might celebrate an exciting end to another successful year for the market, plans are in place to allow market customers to continue to shop with their favorite vendors during the cold winter months when there is no open air market. A website and delivery system has been put in place which will be operational on December 5.
"Shoppers will be able to go online and order what they would like from Sunday evening through Tuesday evening," Chester said. "Then, they can pick up their orders each Thursday afternoon at the Sugar Magnolia Bakery parking area in downtown."
That is good news for vendors like Jimmy Franks from Waynesboro. Franks is the owner of Southern Swiss Dairy and has found the Farmers Market to be a very important outlet for his milk.
"We are producing milk 52 weeks out of the year," Franks said. "To be able to continue to sell it to our Statesboro customers is very important to us. We are a relatively small dairy with 150 cows, so selling our product retail, straight to the customer, is how we are able to be profitable and continue to operate."
This year, a considerable effort has been made to try and determine the economic impact generated by the Saturday market. According to Chester, a log has been kept regarding the market's activity since the market's initial opening on April 3.
"The numbers we have gathered indicate that over 34 Saturdays, the market has generated approximately $215,000," she said. "We average 40 vendors per market, and 700 customers. We have used three counters every 30 minutes of each market to help determine visitor numbers. At the end of each market, the vendors give us a total of their sales. We then add the sales from our weekly raffle basket and the weekly vendor space fees to come up with what is being generated each week."
Debra Ferguson and her husband Del have been selling their grass fed beef at the market for the last two years. The Fergusons, owners of Hunter Cattle Grassfed Beef in Stilson, said the market has become an invaluable part of their farm's success.
"We sell our beef at other farmers markets in this area, and the Statesboro market is by far the best," she said. "The folks that come to the Statesboro market really care about eating as healthily as they possibly can, and our product is a part of that. We will always be at the Statesboro market. Came out on Tuesday night - we will be cooking ribs and brisket."
An addition to this year's Shopping by Lantern Light will be a section featuring local authors and musicians who will be on hand to sell their books and CDS.
"The emphasis for all of the market is always on the concept of locally produced products," Chester said. "We have experienced a successful season and this last opportunity to come together is especially anticipated by the farmers and the community."
To learn more about the Main Street Farmers Market, tonight's event, or how to shop online, visit the market's website at statesboromainstreetmarket.locallygrown.net.