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Farmers market set to open for season
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City of Morganton
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Farmers market set to open for season

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Residents looking forward to having a one-stop shop for local produce and products won’t have to wait much longer.

The Morganton Farmers Market is set to open for the season from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 1, at 300 Beach Alley, behind Maria’s Italian Eatery.

As always, the market will feature a variety of fruits and vegetables, fresh baked breads, local meats, eggs, flowers, honey, locally crafted items and more. All farms represented at the market are within 60 miles of Morganton.

The market is a production of the Historic Morganton Festival Inc. and is sponsored by Self-Help Credit Union, Burke County Farm Bureau and the Morganton Community House, said Abby Nelson, Main Street manager for the city of Morganton.

“We have several new vendors already signed up for the 2021 Morganton Farmers Market,” she said. “Many are produce vendors, but we also have a goat cheese and truffles vendor that I’m very excited about.”

Check out these snapshots taken of the Morganton Farmers' Market throughout the season in 2020:

In addition to shopping, the market will provide entertainment and more.

“When planning for this year’s farmers market, attention has been focused on the additional amenities that can be added to create a fun experience for customers,” Nelson said. “For many customers, shopping at the Morganton Farmers Market is something that the whole family attends, so we’ve been working on creating markets that are inviting for multiple generations. HMF Inc. is working with various music artists to book live acoustic performances throughout the market. We currently have three weekends a month with music planned at the market.”

Musicians scheduled to perform at the market include Butterbeans, Reel-Time Lucy, Patty M., the Morganton JAM program, The Outreach Center’s WOW program, and Alan Darveaux.

“Similar to how HMF books bands for TGIF and the Morganton Festival, our offices takes email submissions from interested bands throughout the year,” Nelson said. “Bookings are done after reviewing submissions, budgets and availabilities.”

Butterbeans will perform from 9-11 a.m. opening day.

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The city also has arranged for staff members of the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina to visit the market throughout the season to provide fun crafts for kids while teaching them ecological principles, such as a “Make Your Own Seed Bomb” project using dirt, water and seeds, and eco-friendly bird feeders.

People who use SNAP/EBT cards, WIC or senior vouchers at the market will have an opportunity to double the amount they spend there. The market is teaming up with RAFI-USA, in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, to offer a “Double Bucks Incentive Program.”

“Here’s how it works,” Nelson said. “Decide how much to spend at the market. Visit the J&J Farms table at the market. Let the market staff know how much money you would like to spend. Market staff will swipe your SNAP/EBT card or exchange cash from WIC/senior vouchers and give you wooden tokens to spend at the market. We will match what you spend in Double Buck tokens. Use tokens at any stand. Remember that no change will be given. Tokens never expire and can be spent on any market day during the Morganton Farmers Market 2021 season.”

RAFI-USA is an organization that “challenges the root causes of unjust food systems, supporting and advocating for economically, racially and ecologically just farm communities,” according to rafiusa.org.

“We first partnered with RAFI-USA in 2015 as one of the first markets to offer the Fresh Bucks incentive program, which is similar to Double Bucks, but only offered dollar-for-dollar match for fruits and vegetables only, whereas Double Bucks provides dollar-for-dollar match for the same items that can be bought using SNAP/EBT cards,” Nelson said. “The Farmers Market offered the Fresh Bucks program from 2015-20, and due to a new grant funder, BCBSNC, we were selected by RAFI-USA to be in the next round of markets to offer Double Bucks.”

She encouraged people in those programs to take advantage of the extra spending power.

“This not only brings fresh produce to those shoppers, but also puts more money into the local farms that grow these items,” Nelson said. “I hope that we will see an increase in customers because of this program.”

The market will continue to follow coronavirus safety protocols this year. Customers will be required to wear masks and remain socially distant from each other. Only one customer will be allowed at a booth at a time. Shoppers are asked to only handle products they intend to purchase. Hand sanitizing stations will be provided. Those experiencing any COVID-19-related symptoms should not visit the market.

Nelson described what it was like for the farmers market to operate during the pandemic.

“Because of COVID-19, we did see a slight dip in customers attending the market during the 2020 market season, especially early on in the pandemic. But we were fortunate to be classified as an essential business and never had to shut down operations,” she said. “Some farmers chose to have curbside pickup for customers, which was new in 2020.”

Nelson invited people to stop by the market.

“We are excited to see what activities will happen this year,” she said. “Remember that fruits and vegetables change every month, so be sure to stop by each week to see what’s new and fresh. Follow the Morganton Farmers Market on Facebook for all the latest information on market vendors, what’s in season, and special events.”

For information about the Morganton Farmers Market or about SNAP and Double Bucks, call 828-438-5280 or email info@downtownmorganton.com.

Staff writer Tammie Gercken can be reached at tgercken@morganton.com.

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