Maintaining steady crowds proved to be a challenge for the Zebulon Farm Fresh Market in its maiden run at the Zebulon Community Center last year.
The downward trend in attendance as the market season spanned from May to October led organizers to pursue a new, more noticeable location – the front lawn of Zebulon Town Hall – where this year’s opening day is set for Saturday, May 7, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“It’s going to be better because it’s going to be more visible, I have no doubts,” said Maurine Brown, the market’s manager. “There’s a lot of energy about this location. When we presented the idea to town council, we showed them 16,000 cars pass by town hall in a day and 4,700 pass by the community center. Once you see that data, it’s a no-brainer.”
The community center was chosen as the initial location in part for opportunities to tie in programming held there on Saturdays and to use the adjacent community park, but mainly because it fit well into the scope of the John Rex Endowment grant that is helping the market get its start.
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The grant focuses on providing children and families better access to healthy foods and active living opportunities. It provides funding for the first three years while the town works to build sustainable support for the market.
“(Serving low-income families) was one of the factors we did consider when we chose the community center because that was determined to be a low-income area,” Zebulon Parks and Recreation director Greg Johnson said when the decision was made to move the market in February. “But even here (at town hall) there are a lot of low-income families near where we are going to be.”
The market offers fresh produce sourced from local farms. It also accepts Electronic Benefit Transfer cards and provides a dollar-per-dollar match for up to $25 for EBT card-using patrons.
Brown is expecting 20 vendors for opening day, offering plants, flowers, vegetables, fresh strawberries and eggs, grass-fed beef, chicken, local honey and more.
Entertainment will be provided by the Massey School of Dance, the Jim Riche Project – a band specializing in acoustic southern and soft rock and country music – and the Wakefield Missionary Baptist Church choir
The day will also feature a Zumba demonstration on stage, an artist offering free caricatures and the town’s antique fire truck. U.S. Foods is providing a visiting chef that will prepare free samples of the fresh produce from the market, and the first 100 customers get to take home a free sample of strawberries.
“It’s definitely a sense of community, and we’re kind of taking a step back in time, where people used to buy more directly from a farmer or grower,” Brown said. “Things are really turning back toward that way, and I really like that idea.”