Statesboro and Bulloch County will mark another “returning to normal” milestone in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic when the Main Street Farmers Market opens for the 2021 season.
At 9 a.m. Saturday about 25 vendors are expected to fill Charlie Olliff Square in the Synovus Bank parking lot on East Main Street, for folks to enjoy a selection of fresh vegetables and fruit in season, dairy products, herbs, local meats and even some Georgia peaches.
“We are all so excited to have our Farmers Market back,” said Relinda Walker, who took over as Market manager in 2018. “I think our customers, vendors and farmers are so ready to be outside again and take pleasure in being among other people again.”
A number of longtime vendors, including Jacobs Produce, Ogeechee Peaches, Hunter Cattle and Prosser’s Shrimp, will return along with a number of new vendors. Walker said the popular Cork’s Kettle Korn won’t be at the Market Saturday, but will return the second week.
Walker said the number of vendors should increase each week as more people find out the Market has reopened and will probably have as many as 40 vendors in a few weeks.
After Saturday, the market will be open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. through Nov. 20. It will close for the season with the traditional “Shopping by Lantern Light” event on Tuesday, Nov. 23. The first Lantern shopping event was held in 2008 and it, too, had to be cancelled due to COVID in 2020.
Like previous years, the Market will have some themed Saturdays tied to a particular fruit in season, like peaches in July, but the schedule remains “a work in progress.”
Initially, Walker had hoped to be in the new Farmers Market venue that is being built behind the Statesboro Convention and Visitor’s Bureau off South Main St. for the 2021 season. But construction delays caused mostly by supply shortages related to the pandemic pushed Walker to see if the Synovus parking lot would be available for a late start to the season.
Walker contacted Darron Burnette, division CEO for Synovus in Middle and South Georgia and North Florida.
“Darron couldn’t have been more receptive and agreed to let the Farmers Market return to the parking lot where it has been since the first one in 2008,” Walker said. “Again, we appreciate the generosity of Synovus in giving us the use of the lot.”
While there is an outside chance the permanent home for the Farmers Market would be ready for the Shopping by Lantern Light event in November, Walker said realistic expectations are for the facility be ready for the 2022 season.
Plans for the building include several large roll-up doors, like garage doors but with glass instead of opaque panels, to be installed along both the front and back sides of the building. The interior measures about 7,500 square feet, but the plans also call for large porch-like overhanging roofs to be added on the front and back as well.
Anyone who would like more information about becoming a sponsor and/or vendor, can email Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Forms may be found on the website, https://statesborofarmersmarket.com.
Meanwhile, the Market2Go program will continue with its Thursday afternoon pick-ups in the parking lot of the Convention and Visitors Bureau on South Main St.
Walker said the drive-thru pick-up system will remain in place and people are asked to come by between 4 and 6 p.m. every Thursday.
For the Market2Go, shoppers either sign in or create an account at statesboromarket2go.locallygrown.net. Then they select from the vendors’ lists, now totaling more than 500 items from more than 50 participating “growers,” and place orders between 8 p.m. Friday and 10 p.m. Tuesday. Vendors deliver the products to the pick-up site Thursday.
Walker said Market2Go grew from about 25 customers per week prior to the onset of COVID to about 250 at the height of the pandemic. She said they now average about 125-150 customers per week.
Market2Go also has a Sylvania pick-up site at the Market on Maple in downtown Sylvania, 3:30 to 5 p.m. each Thursday.
Jim Healy may be reached at (912) 489-9402.