Kathy Calabrese, who makes herbal-medicine products such as lip balms, sprays and salves using herbs she grows at her Whittier home or gets from local farmers, is glad to see winter go — not so much the passing of winter weather, though that was rough enough this year, but because those long months of squeaking by financially are coming to an end.
“I’ve been more or less living off credit cards,” Calabrese said, only partly in jest. Additionally, the start of the season is fun, she said, and serves as an opportunity to see other local farmers and the familiar faces of regular customers.
“It’s really exciting,” Calabrese said.
Most vendors get a jumpstart into spring by participating in local growers’ festivals, such as one this month in Jackson County — the Appalachian Grower’s Fair — and one next month in Waynesville — Whole Bloomin’ Thing Festival in the Frog Level District.
“The festival has become an excellent outlet for the local growers,” said Jim Pierce, an organizer of the Whole Bloomin’ Thing. “They look forward to getting their business kick started this time of year.”
The festival, which has maintained a true local flavor despite burgeoning growth, connects growers with the community. And that in turn leads to sustained support the rest of the year, Pierce said.
After the spring festival season wanes and before the fall festival season kicks-in, most of these make-a-living-off-the-farm folks can be found anchoring local farmers markets.
Robyn Cammer of Frog Holler Organiks in Haywood County, like Calabrese, is also happy to see winter go.
“There’s 90 days to pay the bills for the year,” Cammer said of the mad rush that marks the lives of most farmers when spring arrives.
Frog Holler Organiks has found its niche primarily by making and selling biodynamic garden soil, a blend of what Cammer describes as “hyper humus-rich growing mediums” containing a “full mineral and nutrient spectrum.” The farm also offers fresh vegetables, berries, eggs and more, but the most important financial leg on this farm’s stool is the garden soil sold by the scoop.
Cammer and other small farmers in Western North Carolina are juggling work with marketing, plus finding the necessary time to actually sell the products they produce. Like Calabrese, Mernie Wortham, who has Falcon Hill Farm in Jackson County, is set to work both festivals as a vendor. She sells products developed directly from her farm, including soaps, shampoo bars, and fiber products such as knitted items and yarn from her sheep and llamas.
“It’s very good to get back out there and be in the community,” said Wortham, who also sells through the Jackson County Farmers Market in Sylva.
Wortham, like other farm vendors in the region, are impressed with the sustained interested in local foods and other locally produced items they are seeing and experiencing.
“It is growing, and continues to grow, and we’d love to see it grow even faster and quicker and bigger,” Wortham said.
Get your garden off to a good start with spring growers festivals
Two local grower’s fairs are on the horizon, the Appalachian Growers Fair in Sylva, and the Whole Blooming’ Thing Festival in Waynesville. The festivals are wildly popular home gardeners looking for vegetable and herb starts, annuals and perennials. Savvy plant buyers have learned to come early with stack of cash in hand and wagons to haul their potted finds — and to set aside plenty of time the rest of the weekend to get their new plants in the ground.
Appalachian Growers Fair
Saturday, April 16, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Monteith Park in Dillsboro. A chance to buy plants and seeds and other agriculture-related items as a fundraiser for Full Spectrum Farms, which is a service organization dedicated to providing a full spectrum of life’s opportunities for persons with autism.
Whole Bloomin’ Thing
Saturday, May 7, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Frog Level district in Waynesville. More than 50 local growers, area artisans and a variety of nature-related professionals will be there, selling locally-grown garden starter plants, flowers, crafts and other beautiful gifts for Mother’s Day. 828.734.5819.
Farmers markets begin rolling out the green carpet
It’s that time of the year, and farmers markets across the region have — or soon will — open for the season.
• The Haywood’s Historic Farmers’ Market will open on Saturday, April 16, the earliest opening date in its history. Growers have been busy getting spring crops ready to sell, as well as vegetable and herb starts and perennials for gardeners. This will be the market’s third full season of offering locally grown produce, farm-fresh eggs, baked goods, cheese, preserves, local meat, fresh North Carolina seafood and heritage crafts.
Haywood’s Historic Farmers’ Market is held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday and Saturday at the HART Theater parking lot Pigeon Street (U.S. 276) in Waynesville. www.waynesvillefarmersmarket.com.
• The Jackson County Farmers Market opened last weekend at its usual location at Bridge Park in downtown Sylva, held Saturdays from 9 a.m. until noon. In addition to plants, seeds and greens, honey, breads, sweets and locally made crafts, this year’s market sees an expansion into local meats. 828.631.3033.
Stay tuned to the calendar section of The Smoky Mountain News for farmers market listings as more markets, from Cherokee to Cashiers to Canton, begin to open for the season.