Upstate Farmers Markets

On any other day of the week, the old train depot on Magnolia Street in Downtown Spartanburg is exactly what it sounds like: a train station. Twice a day, Amtrak passengers visiting or leaving the Hub City do their coming and going here on the Crescent Route between New York and New Orleans.

On Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. between May and October though, the depot serves an entirely different purpose, as home to the Hub City Farmer's Market. Now in its eighth year, the market routinely draws hundreds of people out to the old train depot looking to buy everything from local vegetables like kale, cabbage, and broccoli, to fruits like peaches and strawberries, to animal products like local honey, eggs (chicken and duck), grass-fed beef, and even farm-raised tilapia from Carolina Aquaponics in Campobello.

Several years ago, in response to increasing demand in the area for fresh local food, Hub City Farmer's Market opened its second Downtown Spartanburg market, held on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Morgan Square between June and September.

As that demand has increased, so has the number of vendors selling at the market, with around 30 being the average so far this year. "Last year was a little smaller average, so our vendors are coming more often this year," market manager Nikki Smith offered. Like all farmers markets, the produce available at the Hub City Farmer's Market varies depending on the season, with the peak coming later in the summer.

As a nonprofit organization, the Hub City Farmers Market also strives to make healthy food more available to all residents of Spartanburg County. As part of that mission, the organization launched a new program this year allowing people who receive public assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to double their benefits up to $25 when buying from the farmer's market. "Being a nonprofit, rather than just a regular farmer's market, we have kind of a broader scope," relays Smith.

Additionally, the organization helps build and maintain community gardens throughout Spartanburg County and operates a "mobile market" which brings produce to areas in the county where residents may have trouble making it out to the markets on Wednesday and Saturday.

The growth experienced by the Hub City Farmers Market, as well as other upstate markets like Greenville's TD Saturday Market is part of an explosion of interest in local, sustainable foods around the nation. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the number of farmer's markets has more than quadrupled since 1994 to nearly 8,000 and grew by an astounding 9.6 percent between 2011 to 2012.

In the upstate alone there are 28 different farmers markets, with all 10 counties having at least one, supporting local agriculture in ways not possible before. Now, instead of depending on a third party to sell their goods, farmers connect directly with members of their own communities, bringing healthy local food to their neighbors while ensuring the health of agriculture in the upstate.

To find a farmer's market in your community, check out the South Carolina Department of Agriculture's list of markets at:

 Photo Credit: Ian Curcio

Christopher George is a freelance writer and multimedia professional from Spartanburg. He is a former editor and publisher of the Spartanburg Spark, and his writing and video work has appeared in numerous online and print publications including Mountain Xpress in Asheville, NC and in titles by the Hub City Writers Project.