Farmers market off to good start

Conover Farmers Market is open and in full swing with a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Julie Lehmann, manager of Conover Farmers Market, said Saturday's first day open for the season was off to a good start.

"(Saturday's) shoppers found spring time and were romping around the market," Lehmann said. "They were very excited to be back."

Lehmann said 21 vendors were at Saturday's market, but the Conover Farmers Market has 32 vendors registered for the season, which lasts until the end of October. Area farmers brought a variety of fresh tomatoes, green peppers, onions and fruits, as well as unique vegetables, such as Asian greens. Lehmann said some vendors had a hard time keeping up with customer demands Saturday, with merchandise running out.

Conover Farmers Market also relocated for its first show. It moved from its located near the old Broyhill Furniture site to the Conover Post Office parking lot.

"It was a good atmosphere," Lehmann said. "Customers said the new location is great."

Lehmann said Saturday's market customers complimented the "superb parking" at the new location, as well as the shaded tents positioned under downtown trees.

Last year, Conover Farmers Market opened on Tuesdays, as well as Saturdays. Lehmann said Tuesdays' markets didn't bring as much "success as hoped for;" therefore, it's yet to be determined if there will be a mid-week farmers market in Conover.

"Thank you to all of last year's shoppers that came by (Saturday) to say hello," Lehmann said. "We hope to see them (this Saturday)."


With continued success, like Saturday's market, Conover Farmers Market board members Charlie and Jo Ann Harper have no doubt the market will be self-sustaining by 2013.

Conover Farmers Market became the fourth North Carolina market in June 2010 to receive 501(c) 3 status.

When the market opened in 2009, it had an average of 14 vendors each Saturday of the six-month season. That average increased to 20 in 2010 and is at 32 for this season. While the number of vendors steadily increased, Charlie Harper said the average number of shoppers increased from 90 in 2009 to 130 by October 2010. The board projects this year's market will reach 150 shoppers.

Conover Farmers Market board members created a support organization called Friends of the Market to assist with fundraising efforts for the market. By fundraising, board members expect the market to be self-sustaining by 2013.

At the start of the 2010 season, the farmers market started with more than $4,500 and concluded with more than $23,000. Charlie Harper said the final total included $12,000 from the city of Conover. In 2010, the farmers market spent $18,032, and carried $5,776 to the 2011 market season.

For fiscal year 2011, the city of Conover allocated $8,000 to the farmers market. As of April 1, Conover Farmers Market had $13,776 for funding.

Board members expect to have a total income of $21,031 for the 2011 season, while spending $14,531.

In 2012, Conover Farmers Market is expected to open the season with $6,500 and receiving $4,000 from the city of Conover. The total 2012 income is estimated at $23,350, with expenses equaling $15,500. Money carried over to the 2013 season totals $7,850.

"It has been so encouraging to see our citizens step forward and make this market a reality," said Conover Mayor Lee Moritz Jr. "Many passionate citizen volunteers and a dedicated market manager are responsible for any success this market has seen."

Be sure to see Outlook every week for upcoming specials and features focusing on the weekly offering at the Conover Farmers Market.