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Residents and visitors celebrated the farmers market coming back to the area with lots of fresh produce, delicious dishes and artisanal crafts. Photo by Andrea Maestre

Farmers market returns to the beach

By Ruben Lowman

After being under various states of quarantine and lockdown throughout the spring, the summer season truly kicked into swing with the return of the farmers market to North Myrtle Beach and Little River.

For city resident Tara Gurry it was a chance to get back out and purchase fruits and vegetables that have been grown locally from smiling faces, both familiar and new. She said that the farmers market is a unique place, a gathering spot of individuals who all share a passion for clean, healthy eating.

Locals like Tara Gurry were ecstatic to see the return of the vendors selling clean, healthy food after the past few months of quarantine and lockdown. Photo by Andrea Maestre

“I look forward to the farmers market and have for years now,” she said. “It’s great with all the different vendors that we have and I love supporting local farmers. It’s fresh, local produce and it’s really good for you. I’m very much into healthy eating and it doesn’t get better than this. So it’s great, the nice variety of vendors that we have and seeing new faces out here too. I love it!”

Vendor Johnny Graham, from J&J Farms in Longs, says he farms five acres and works with other farmers in the area to acquire his assortment of tomatoes, peaches, potatoes, hot boiled peanuts and more. He highlighted how buying food locally provides an intimacy and specificity of knowledge that can’t be replicated in large grocery stores with vast, complex supply chains.

Johnny Graham from J&J Farms in Longs. Photo courtesy of the Little River Chamber of Commerce

“It’s important for our community to have somewhere to go to know that they are getting a product that’s fresh. Say for instance you come here and you want to know how it was grown, what kind of soil, how much fertilizer I put into it, I can tell you that. Versus going to the grocery store where they can’t tell you anything.”

Jack Bubenick of Fries Bay Eggs in Loris agreed with Graham.

“This is something that we should be doing and getting people to eat some local produce which is healthy,” he said. “And it’s the right thing and it keeps the money close to home versus the big box stores.”

His farm grows all types of vegetables from onions to garlic to tomatoes, but his main focus has become his chickens and their eggs. He has several different types of eggs, including all-organic, non-GMO and soy-free for individuals with allergies. Bubenick took great pride in explaining in detail the typical daily routine of his chickens and how they help him grow his produce.

Jack Bubenick of Fries Bay Eggs in Loris shows off his precious soy-free, non-GMO and all-organic eggs. He allows his chickens to graze freely and they help him fertilize his soil to grow better produce. Photo by Andrea Maestre

“My eggs are grown organically, they graze throughout the day. They stay in a pen and then they lay their eggs. Early in the afternoon, maybe one or two o’clock, they go out to pasture and they graze and they don’t go back until sunset. They get plenty of sunlight and eat plenty of bugs and they’re just being chickens. They’re not confined, the only time they’re confined is during the night when they’re in their coops. They help me with the garden, they break the soil down for me, they fertilize it. They do their thing and that’s basically how I got involved with the chickens.”

Part-time North Myrtle Beach resident Angie Brown loves the farmers market and Fries Bay Eggs, in particular.

Shoppers perused the fresh produce and artisanal food and crafts on offer at the farmers market run by the Waccamaw Market Cooperative. Photo by Andrea Maestre

“We come back every single year for his eggs and his garlic, they’re so incredibly good. There is definitely a sense of community here. When coming out to the farmers market we like to eat good, eat as fresh and healthy as much as we possibly can and support local people.”

There is also a wide variety of vendors at the market to choose from. Vendors like lifetime North Myrtle Beach local Debbie Ann Hicks, owner of O Gourdie Me!, is happy that “crafters” like her have such a wonderful place to sell their homemade products.

Lifelong North Myrtle Beach resident Debbie Ann Hicks, of O Gourdie Me!, loves working the farmers markets because of the wonderful environment you find. Photo by Andrea Maestre

She was out selling a range of colorful and beautifully-decorated gourds, each created with care and precision to resemble a range of different animals. She says that her inspiration came from a college art class and years of learning how to recycle and conserve while raising two children as a single mother. She loves traveling around the area with the Waccamaw Market Cooperative farmers market. She described the intricate process she has developed in order to reuse everything.

“I don’t waste anything. When I cut the birdhouses out, I take the hole and make necklaces so that doesn’t get wasted. And the seeds that come out I put them away so you have fresh, real gourd seeds and not the fake ones and so people can grow them themselves.”

Debbie Ann Hicks beautifully decorated and arranged gourds. Photo by Andrea Maestre

Hicks enjoys the way that going to the farmers market makes her feel a sense of community that is not found in similar settings.

“It brings us together to buy things that are healthy for us. I just love being around this environment because it’s healthy and people are happy and it’s just different. It’s different than being in a mall. A mall is more commercial and this is more like family.”

There is something for everyone to enjoy at the farmers market. It comes to Little River every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 4460 Mineola Avenue on the historic waterfront. The farmers market will be in North Myrtle Beach every Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 925 First Avenue South right across from the library.

Marvin and David of Budares, a local business serving traditional South American food, came to the United States from Colombia and Venezuela to sell arepas and hopefully build up to eventually opening a restaurant in the area. Arepas are patties made from corn flour that can be filled or topped with meat, cheese and vegetables, and they are absolutely delicious. Photo by Andrea Maestre

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