Weather warms, farmers markets open for the season

Published 3:41 pm Monday, April 2, 2018

With the warmth of spring starting to permeate the air, gardeners throughout Beaufort County are beginning to plan and plant their plots for the season.

As these growers bring their crops to fruition, a pair of local farmers markets in Washington will offer a place to sell and celebrate their harvests. While the Washington Harbor District Alliance will open its Farmers and Artisans Market on Saturday, the newly christened Washington City Market celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting on Friday.

Although these two markets occupy different spaces in the city, together, they serve a common purpose. Both will give local growers and artisans a venue to sell their produce, supplementing incomes and allowing small operations to expand. For the consumer, these spaces serve as places to purchase quality, affordable produce, a foundational building block of good health.


Located at 532 N. Market St., the newly opened Washington City Market is Bill Booth’s brainchild. Situated on plots of land owned by Booth and FEMA tracts owned by the City of Washington, the open-air space represents a partnership between Beaufort County Community College and the city.

Booth, who serves as the Healthy Eating Community Outreach Coordinator at BCCC, is currently administering a three-year grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, an organization that has pledged $10 million over 10 years to improve quality of life for residents in 15 of North Carolina’s most economically distressed counties.

“Last year, we started community outreach gardening,” Booth said. “We did about seven community gardens and 20 to 25 home gardens in the community. Several of the growers grew more produce than what they could sell or consume. That gave me the idea of providing a market where they could sell their excess and generate some extra income.”

CORNERSTONE: A cornerstone bearing the names Bill Booth and K. Boomer will serve as a permanent reminder of the Washington City Market’s origins for years to come. (Matt Debnam/Daily News)

With approximately 30 city-owned FEMA lots spread throughout the city that cannot be developed due to flooding concerns, Booth is seeking community partners who want to develop these plots into thriving community gardens. So far, six community gardens have popped up around the city, with more in the works for this season.

“Others are wanting to duplicate what we’re doing here in Beaufort County,” Booth said. “We’re helping individuals on fixed income, and Beaufort County has a lot of land that isn’t being utilized. Now people can come and grow these vegetables and generate an income.”

One supplementary benefit of the Washington City Market is that it places affordable produce within reach of individuals who might not otherwise have access to it. As more Beaufort County residents supplement their diets with such fare, Booth anticipates a direct impact on rates of prevalent chronic disease such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.

“There are just so many benefits that can arise from a farmer’s market,” Booth said. “Then too, it’s in the neighborhood. A lot of people in this neighborhood don’t have access to fresh, affordable vegetables. We will be providing that here.”

Moving forward, Booth hopes to see something happening at the Washington City Market nearly every day. In addition to plenty of space for vendors, the lot is equipped with a permanent shelter that can be used for live music, cookouts and community events.

“It’s a place where people can come, express themselves and talk about growing and developing their minds,” Booth said. “This is just the start.”


While the Washington City Market is a newcomer to the outdoor market scene, the WHDA’s Farmers and Artisans Market has been an established fixture in the community for years. Located at the corner of Bonner and Water streets, the WHDA market will open for the season from 8 a.m. to noon this Saturday, continuing each Saturday through October.

“When a farmer sells to a big chain, they only get 10 cents of that dollar,” WHDA Director Meg Howdy said. “When they sell at a farmers market, they’re getting all of that money.”

In the near future, however, Howdy says that her organization has big plans in the works for a historic building downtown that will soon house the Harbor District Market. Work is already underway at 140 W. Main St., once the location of the former McLellan Five and Dime store. Upon completion, Howdy hopes to see this indoor, open-air space open six days per week.

FUTURE MARKET: Work is currently underway at the future home of the indoor Washington Harbor District Market. Located at 140 W. Main St., the market will be housed in the historic building which once housed the McLellan’s Five and Dime. (Washington Harbor District Alliance)

At the existing market, a number of local businesses have grown and developed to expand their businesses. A pair of popular downtown eateries, Rachel K’s Bakery and Carry Out by Chrislyn, both found their customer base at the WHDA Farmers and Artisans Market. These are prime examples of how local farmers markets can serve as an incubator for growers and artisans hoping to develop their businesses.

“The whole purpose of what we do is to allow for those who want to expand their business to do so,” Howdy said. “They can start out, we can hopefully help nurture them and they can then have a storefront of their own if they want to.”

In addition to providing an affordable venue for growers to sell the fruits of their labor, Howdy says that she hopes to see a variety of features included in the new building that could only be made possible through having a permanent space.

“We’re working to possibly have a butcher shop, as well as a creamery,” Howdy said.

Other planned uses for the 16,500-square-foot building include educational spaces, workshop areas, crafter spaces, history exhibits on the area’s agricultural roots and expanded space for the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum. The Harbor District Market will also include a commercial kitchen to allow growers to make value-added products.

FRESH PRODUCE: The Washington Harbor District’s Farmers and Artisans Market opens for the season this coming Saturday, and will continue operations every Saturday through October. (Washington Harbor District Alliance)

With fundraising for the building currently in full swing and an estimated cost between $900,000 and $1 million to complete the project, Howdy says that her organization is seeking grant money and has already seen tremendous support from the community. Local growers such as Briley’s Farm, Petals and Produce and Southside Farms have also thrown their support behind the market.

“The great thing is we have a fantastic community that supports one another,” Howdy said. “The opportunity to have things like the Saturday market and the indoor farmers markets that bring local, healthy foods to our families is important.”

Howdy says she hopes to see the Harbor District Market open its doors this fall and that the project will be complete by next summer at the latest.

For more information on the Farmers and Artisans Market opening Saturday, or to apply as a vendor, click to or speak to market managers Meg Howdy, Susan Watson, Gayle Watson or Jennifer Everett. For more information on the Washington City Market, call 252-945-5355. To learn more about starting a community garden in your neighborhood, call Bill Booth at 252-940-6280 or