Artisans Market set for March 16

BLYTHEWOOD – The Blythewood Farmers Market will celebrate its 10th year in operation next month and will kick that celebration off with its Spring Artisan’s Market this Saturday, March 16, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., featuring about 60 vendors selling handmade items.

It will be held in front of the Amphitheater in Doko Meadows Park.

“This is going to be a big show, really special with lots of great vendors selling everything you need for Easter, Mother’s Day, graduation, Father’s Day, and end-of-the-year teacher gifts,” says Market Director and Founder Michaela Barno. “Our vendors have so many one-of-a-kind gifts that you won’t see anywhere else.”

It will be held at the same location as the weekly farmers’ market – in front of the Amphitheater in Doko Meadows Park.

Champagne Toast

Then next month, the full every-Wednesday Farmer’s market will open on April 17 to not only kick off the market season but to celebrate its ten-year anniversary of growth. There will be a live band, food trucks, and champagne toast.

“We’re very excited to let people know we’ve been serving for 10 years now, and it really has grown so much,” says Barno, founder and manager of the market, it’s just been kind of an organic growth.”

The regular weekly market will be every Wednesday evening from 4 – 7, for 32 weeks, through the third week of November.

“Each week we’ll have a live band, food truck, and kids’ activity tent as well as local fruit and vegetable produce, meat, and other grocery items.

“And there’ll be weekly specials,” Barno says. “The first week of each month will feature a food sample tasting, the second week will feature bonus shopping tokens, and the third week will feature a seasonal wine or beer tasting.

“The coolest thing about our market here in Blythewood is that we truly are a food market,” she says. “Some markets tend to cater more towards just artisans… but most of our vendors are farmers – either fruit and vegetable farmers or meat farmers – and then we have vendors selling homemade breads, jams, pickles, honey, grits, drinks, and desserts, to name a few. We want people to be able to get the bulk of their groceries at the Blythewood Farmers Market.”

Once the regular market season begins, Barno says, a big focus for this year will be on the weekly children’s program. Called the Power of Produce (PoP) Club, it’s based around a curriculum through weekly activities that teaches kids about where their food comes from.

The kids who participate also receive tokens, or market dollars that they can use to shop at the Blythewood Farmers Market.

“Last year was so much fun – the kids loved it – so this year we’re inviting different organizations to participate in this activity with the kids,” Barno says.

“These groups include the library, 4H, South Carolina Watermelon Queen, Richland Soil & Water conservation, and others. All of these different organization are signing up throughout the season. And, so, they’ll do the activity, and most of them are nonprofit organizations, as well, so it’s kind of a way to connect the community with these organizations while supporting the kids’ activity.”

Barno says it’s been rewarding to watch the market grow over the decade since its founding in 2014. In its early years, there were often fewer than half a dozen vendors – but now the average on Wednesday nights is 28 vendors – and even on the hottest days of the summer there are typically at least 20 from the Blythewood, Ridgeway, and Elgin areas.

To some extent, she says, the Covid-19 pandemic brought the importance of local food front and center, as people grappled with both fear of the virus and supply chain disruptions.

“We had a moment during Covid when our local grocery stores had really bare shelves, especially in the produce section, and shopping inside of a store made people nervous sometimes,” she says.

“There was a special energy at the Farmers Market during Covid, where shouppers could make their purchases in the open air and from local businesses.”

She says the market has also grown along with the town, as construction of new neighborhoods has bought hundreds of new families to Blythewood.

This kind of community gathering place for all residents is part of a vision for Blythewood’s future, she says, as it shifts from the sleepy little town it once was to a more vibrant scene.

“There was a vision to have an active downtown vibe – people walking, shopping, using this park – and we really sense that on Wednesday nights.” Barno says.

“There’s families that are at the playground, they’re coming to and from the music school, they’re in between school and work and baseball practice and soccer practice, and they’re coming by the market and getting their regular groceries, and so it’s a central part of the atmosphere of what Blythewood is going to be as it continues to grow.”

Among her hopes for the market as it enters its second decade: that it will become a central place for education for those who wish to learn about food-related skills like gardening, raising chickens in the back yard, baking, and canning. She’d also like to start a farm-to-table dinner in Blythewood and hopes that the town will build a market pavilion in the park.

“Our tagline is that we are Blythewood’s marketplace for homegrown groceries,” Barno says. “We love our local grocery stores too, but farms are a part of the Blythewood history and legacy, and we want to keep it that way.

“The Farmer’s Market is an experience – entertainment and shopping in the great outdoors – right here in downtown Blythewood.”

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]