Non-profit Farmer’s Market in New Bern brings foot traffic by the thousands to small businesses

Non-profit Farmer’s Market in New Bern brings foot traffic by the thousands to small businesses

The New Bern-Craven County Area Farmer’s Market in downtown New Bern has grown exponentially from 10 vendors when it opened in 1984, to now averaging about 88 vendors every Saturday.

The Farmer’s Market is a non-profit organization that operates every Saturday of the year, excluding the Saturday after Christmas.

The Market has four different sources of income, which go towards their building lease, utilities, and maintenance.

Monthly market membership fees, weekly table rentals, rental of market space for events, and Friends of the Market are their only sources of income to keep the market running.

Farmer’s Market President Joe Hunt explained that they rent the market space out to help keep the cost of attendance low for vendors.

“It could be for an artist’s show, we also rent it for dinners, weddings, organizations that want to hold meetings,” he said.

People are welcome to make monetary donations as a friend of the market to help support operations and maintenance, according to their website.

Donors are provided with a Friends of the Market membership card, which participating vendors will honor for a 10% discount on purchases. Vendor participation in the discount is voluntary, so not all vendors will honor the discount.

In order for vendors to join the Farmer’s Market, they must meet certain requirements.

Vendors must meet the “grow it, sew it, make it, or bake it” rule and they must have an NC Sales and Use Tax Registration number. Other restrictions apply under each category.

Vendors that meet the requirements must purchase a yearly membership fee of $50 in order to attend Saturday markets. Aside from the membership fee, the only other cost for business owners to attend is a $10 fee per table rental.

Hunt has been with the Farmer’s Market since 2012 when he started volunteering. Over the years, he has seen the tremendous impact that the market has on vendors’ businesses.

“For many of the vendors it’s a reasonable fraction of their income, this is not a hobby shop,” said Hunt. “I did a survey one year just to see why they were here, and I found that it was a big financial boost for many.”

From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, customers can wander between different vendors and shop for fresh produce, flowers, meat, art, jewelry, and more.

According to information Hunt collected from 2022 operations, the market sees an average of 1,650 customers each day.

A customer census from April 9, 2022, showed that 2,000 people came to the Farmer’s Market that Saturday.

One vendor, Melissa Gray, has traveled from her farm in Richlands to New Bern for the past seven years to sell sheep milk soap, Nuno felted art, fleeces, and more.

She explained that the New Bern Farmer’s Market helped her business, Southern Sheep Company, grow tremendously.

“The Market helped us to grow our farm from six acres to 60, so it justified us being able to go bigger,” said Gray.

Hunt’s wife, Annette, recalls that people travel far and wide to come to the Farmer’s Market in New Bern.

“We get people from all over the world that come through here,” she said. “It’s not just New Bernians or North Carolinians.”

Another vendor, Krisann Blackwell, was able to turn Beaman’s Fork Soap Company into her full-time job.

“I’ve been able to work from home, even with my website I was able to work all through COVID until I could come back to the market,” Blackwell said. “I couldn’t have done that if I wasn’t able to start the website because of this [the market].”

According to Blackwell, at least half of her customers online are tourists that previously bought from her at the Farmer’s Market.

Data collected from 2022 shows that 143 vendors joined the market that year. Some sell local food products, locally grown produce, one-of-a-kind crafts, books, handmade personal care and more.

Business owners that meet the criteria are welcome to join the market at any time. In fact, Annette Hunt noticed that current vendors are very welcoming to new members.

“When a new person comes on board everybody pitches in, gives some tips, makes them feel welcome, it’s just a nice place to be,” she said.

Market Manager Julie McKeon handles all new member inquiries. For more information on vendor requirements and next steps, call McKeon at 252-633-0043.

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