Cary News

April 3, 2014

Apex Farmers Market tries to reinvent itself

Expect to see more vendors, food trucks and weekly specials during this season of the Apex Farmers Market, which will kick off Saturday.

Expect to see more vendors, food trucks and weekly specials during this season of the Apex Farmers Market, which will kick off Saturday.

The market’s new leaders hope to bring new life to the weekly event, which has had trouble attracting vendors and customers in the past.

This year, the goal is more variety. The Apex Farmers Market had become known for hosting crafters, but it didn’t have many produce vendors.

Now, customers can find chicken, beef, strawberries, honey, vegetables, gourmet popcorn, baked goods and pottery. Vendors set up on Saturdays outside the Apex Union Train Depot on Salem Street.

For the first time, the market has a fish vendor, LL Urban Farms in Raleigh. The farm also grows hydroponic lettuce.

Customers will also find vendors that have set up at the market in years past, such as Lone Oak Farm from Chatham County. The farm sells squash, zucchini, eggplant, radishes, bunching onions, lettuce and plants.

“What we’re trying to do as a board is reinvent the market,” said volunteer market manager Debbie Lubcker. “Bring in more produce, more variety.

“I just need the community to come out and support us,” she continued. “The vendors are going to be there. Things are falling into place.”

Last year, the Apex Farmers Market was struggling, and Lubcker put out a warning: If more people didn’t come out to support the market, it would shut down.

The opening day of last year’s market drew a big crowd, but attendance fizzled by mid-season.

Some food vendors pleaded with Lubcker to keep the market going. A group of volunteers formed a board of directors, and the Apex Farmers Market became a nonprofit earlier this year.

“I knew I needed help,” Lubcker said.

For the past seven years, she had been running the market herself. She worked with vendors, set up tents, ran marketing efforts and dug into her own pocket to cover expenses.

With a board of directors in place, Lubcker said she expects the market will get a “shot in the arm.”

In the past, the market averaged about 10 to 12 vendors every Saturday. Vendors began selling fresh vegetables in May, a month after the official opening.

This year, the market is set to have 26 produce, food, and craft vendors on opening day and at least two food trucks. The market will host a special guest vendor every week to guarantee there is something new.

Visitors can track vendors, coupon specials and the musical lineup at the market each week by signing up for a newsletter, which is a new feature, said board member Veronica Rockwell.

Parking has been an issue in the past. With new sponsors such as the Apex Downtown Business Association, there are now signs that point to parking behind the Tobacco Mule & Exchange Building and The Halle Cultural Arts Center.

“When you are competing against Cary, western Wake and Raleigh farmers markets you have to find a way to set yourself apart,” Rockwell said. “We want to keep it that small-town market.

“We want people to see this is a community environment,” she continued. “The small businesses are what makes America tick. It’s hard to compete with big farms who supply Walmart and the big grocery chains. If we don’t support our local farms, then all our produce will be coming from out of the area.”

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