A few farmers markets are already open across Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties, but many of them are officially opening up this week. News 2 is taking a tour of a handful of Lowcountry farmers markets with a look at some of the products you can find.
It started as a hobby…
Owner of Cup Fine Coffee and Roasters, Robbie Dietrich, says, “I started home brewing and getting into espresso and other brewing methods, and it just kind of took off from there and I started investing all of my money in coffee equipment and roasting equipment and decided I should start a business.”
Then took off when Cup Fine Coffee had its first booth at the Downtown Charleston Farmers Market.
Dietrich says, “We started doing that and this is our seventh year in the farmers market, and it’s been so good that we never want to leave.”
In just those seven years, the business has grown to include wholesale to 15 different local restaurants and their own coffee shop off of King Street. Cup Coffee says what sets them apart is quality.
Dietrich says, “We only use specialty grade coffee and most roasters aren’t really interested in the quality side. I’ve got years of experience roasting which makes a big difference. We pay a lot of attention to our customers, everything from emergency calls, to we teach them brewing techniques, we help them with almost anything they could possibly want.”
And the farmers market gave them the chance to emphasize those things that set them apart.
Dietrich says, “You get to have direct contact with the actual end customer, so you are educating them more than like a telephone game type education.”
The Downtown Charleston Farmers Market runs on Saturdays starting April 8th in Marion Square from 8AM-2PM.
2017 is the Hanahan Farmers Market’s first year. If you head out to the market, one of the vendors you will see is Gruber Farm.
Owner, Stanley Gruber, says, “Local versus shipped, picked the day versus shipped, there’s no comparison.”
Not only does it taste better, but when you get fresh crops from a local farmer, you know you are getting quality.
Gruber says, “You know your stuff is fresh when you get it, you know it’s taken care of, it doesn’t have chemicals that are harmful to you sprayed on it or anything. You know it’s a win-win if people will take the time to do that.”
Gruber Farm also offers a CSA program, or Community Supported Agriculture. Through this program for three months, Gruber Farm delivers weekly produce boxes to a pickup location near you.
Stanley Gruber says, “I like to think it works good with farmers markets because you can get something there than may not be in the CSA box, or maybe they have a party or something and they need more of a particular thing so they go to the farmers market.”
With 40 different crops grown on the 100 acre Gruber Farm, there is certainly a variety available; from strawberries, to kale, to corn and everything in between.
Gruber says, “You’re getting stuff from here, not from Mexico or whatever, and the money’s staying local and you’re helping to keep a farmer afloat. It’s just a good thing for everybody.”
The Hanahan Farmers Market is open on Thursdays from 3-7PM at Reservoir Hall at 1601 Eagle Landing Blvd.
The Sullivan’s Island Farmers Market opens on April 6th for it’s second year, and vendors say last year it was a hit. Mitla Tortilleria says they have developed loyal followers thanks to the Sullivan’s Island Farmers Market.
Owner, Grace Newland, says, “A lot of people say they really can’t eat store bought tortillas any more and they’re hooked.”
Mitla Tortilleria started after Newland took a trip to Mexico.
She says, “That was actually where I had the first corn tortilla I actually liked”.
It was made using an ancient cooking method, which involves soaking the corn in lime. Newland says not many tortillas are made that way in the US because it takes a little longer.
She says, “It’s a two day process because the corn after you cook it, it has to soak for several hours. So it’s very labor intensive, but for me the end result is totally better.”
Mitla Tortilleria uses that same traditional method, and says that paired with the best ingredients is what sets them apart.
Newland says, “I use only the highest quality ingredients, so organic, non GMO, no preservatives. My corn tortillas only have four ingredients, my base flour recipe only has five ingredients. So very simple ingredients, but authentic taste.”
She says the farmers market has helped to develop loyal tortilla customers, and shopping at the farmers market benefits everyone.
Newland says, “When you shop locally, more money stays in our local economy. And when you eat local, I think it just tastes better too.”
The Sullivan’s Island Farmers Market opens on April 6th and runs every Thursday from 2:30-7 PM. It is held in front of the Poe Library at 1921 I’on Avenue.
Even if you’ve been to the Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market before, you probably don’t recognize this vendor. Hydroponic Harvest is brand new to the market this season.
Owner of Hydroponic Harvest, Herb Butler, says, “I’m really excited. I’ll be there for six months, the full season and I can’t wait to see what Mt Pleasant has to offer for me and what I have to offer them.”
He uses hydroponics to grow his crops, which means he grows them using a water system, and no soil.
Butler says, “My best part about hydroponics that I prefer is the cleanliness of the water. You can purify the water, you can constantly recirculate the water with air to keep it non-stagnant as well. You don’t get soil-borne pathogens, you don’t get disease because in a greenhouse you can control the environment a lot better than you can outdoors.”
Right now he is growing four different types of basil: sweet, mammoth, cinnamon, and Thai. He hopes to expand into kale and hot peppers this summer.
Butler says, “I would like to get a series of greenhouses going eventually. I plan on moving to Georgetown in the summer and have an expansion of greenhouses there.”
He says getting involved in farmers markets has helped him to get much closer to that dream, and encourages everyone to check out local farmers markets to support small businesses like Hydroponic Harvest.
Butler says, “There’s always fun things going on, great food, usually music. Everyone is really friendly, and I think it’s a good way to spend a Saturday or a Sunday or even a Tuesday at the Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market.”
The Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market is open on Tuesdays beginning April 4 from 3:30PM- 7PM at the Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market Pavilion near Moultrie Middle School on Coleman Blvd.
Rina’s Kitchen is one of the vendors that has been at the Summerville Farmers Market the longest. Rina’s Kitchen makes jelly, pickles, and pie filling and has been a staple of the Summerville Farmers Market for 25 years. Six jars of jelly was all it took to get on a roll.
Owner, Rina Palmer, says, “I was doing my jelly at home for my family and everything, and made six jars of strawberry jam which is very popular. I took it to the farmers market and one gentlemen bought all of them.”
To make sure it wasn’t beginner’s luck, Rina went back with twice as many jars.
She says, “I got all excited, the next Saturday I made another 12, and that went. And that’s how my business started.”
Now Rina’s Kitchen is producing 200-300 jars of jelly every day. Rina’s Kitchen is busy fulfilling orders for wholesale customers, online sales, and their Summerville store, so the only farmers market they attend now is the one where it all started. And at 80 years old, Rina isn’t slowing down.
She says, “I get up in the morning and I’m ready to come.”
To check out Rina’s Kitchen and all of the other vendors at the Summerville Farmers Market, you can head out on Saturdays starting April 8th from 8AM-1PM. It is located in the First Citizens Bank parking lot behind Town Hall at 200 South Main Street.