MINT HILL, NC – Saturday, May 16th was opening day for the Mint Hill Farmer’s Market!
“We had a lot of great people stopping by, a lot of new faces as well as our standard customers,” says Chris Gessler. Gessler got started with the Mint Hill Farmer’s Market last summer as a full-time vendor selling polished rocks and custom made jewelry with Outlaw Designs. This year, she’s managing the market’s always-informative Facebook page.
This year’s seasonal market will feature many more vendors than in previous years. About twenty vendors set up booths on opening day, but Gessler estimates patrons may see as many as forty vendors later in the summer!
It’s a huge increase over last year’s ten regular vendors. In part, Gessler attributes the increase to the hard work of established vendors, who have made an effort to get the word out about the market. But this summer’s vendors also benefit from a new payment structure that allows them to join for the entire season or just a single day. This new pay structure allows new vendors to try the market out to see how their product sells before committing to an entire season.
Gessler also credits the surge in new vendors to an unlikely source: COVID-19. Gessler guesses that people stuck at home for weeks on end have the time to explore hobbies, talents, and interests previously pushed aside. Moreover, people furloughed from their regular jobs may be turning to those talents as a secondary source of income. “It’s bringing back the hands-on arts!” says Gessler.
One of those new vendors is Christina Sawyer, who is selling her homemade cloth face masks. Sewing since before her now-teenage kids were born, Sawyer saw the need for cloth masks and wanted to contribute. Her masks sized for kids through adults sell for as low as $5. Sawyer plans to be at the market every weekend.
Whatever has brought more vendors to the market, the end result for shoppers is a diverse selection of items. All items sold at the Mint Hill Farmer’s Market must be handcrafted, artisan, homemade or locally-grown, but this year you’ll see everything from produce, beef and honey to baked goods, soap and jewelry. Some are vendor veterans; others are just starting out.
“I found that the vendors I was able to meet and speak with all had a story,” says Sandy Harrison, who sells Vitality Ginger homemade remedies at the market. “It was great to hear from them and see their unique products. I am certain it will be a great year! I feel people, especially at this time, will want to help local mom and pop businesses while getting unique, quality products made right here in Mint Hill!”
This coming Saturday will be the market’s first “Small Business Saturday,” where local small businesses can set up a tent free of charge to advertise their services. It’s an effort the Farmer’s Market is making to help small businesses get back on their feet as we figure out what life looks like post-social distancing. The event is not limited to retailers who sell items typically available at Farmer’s Markets; any small business from restaurants and salon owners to plumbers and electricians can attend. Small businesses aren’t allowed to sell products at the market, but they can give out promotional materials, coupons, and even samples. The Farmer’s Market plans to have Small Business Saturday once a month.
It may not be the biggest Farmer’s Market in the region, but Mint Hill’s Farmer’s Market prides itself on being more than just a play to buy fresh veggies. Set in the Carl J. McEwen Historical Village, the market enjoys a partnership with the Mint Hill Historical Society, who not only sells their famous Mint Hill Hot Dogs but also offers free tours of the Historical Village.
This year the Farmer’s Market will also have food trucks. They started last week with funnel cakes, funnel fries, and lemonade from Whittie’s Concessions. Next weekend they’ll have Chilaka Taco Lab. “We’re just trying to make this a great experience where people can get out and wander around for a few hours,” says Gessler. “Going into a big store is nice, but there are times just walking around a market is good, too.”
Not to mention safer. When we’re fighting a disease that spreads primarily via droplets that fly through the air when an infected person sneezes, coughs or speaks, it’s no surprise that evidence increasingly shows that the risk of transmission is higher in small, enclosed spaces. As long as COVID-19 continues to spread, gathering in groups poses a risk, but evidence increasingly suggests that your risk of infection is lower outside, where it’s easier to maintain social distance and possibly more difficult for the virus to navigate factors like wind, humidity and heat as it jumps from person to person.
Vendors are doing their part to maintain social distance at the market. “We are social distancing,” assures Gessler. “We all have hand sanitizer, we’re using it after every transaction. We are taking all of the safety precautions to make everything as healthy and safe as possible. And people are doing their part,” continues Gessler. “They’re taking turns in the tents, standing back and looking. People are doing it on their own, and they’re doing a very good job.”
The Mint Hill Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm weather permitting. If you are interested in selling at the market or taking part in Small Business Saturday, contact Chris Gessler by phone (704-305-4514) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Follow them on social media for the latest updates!