Hilton Head market caps successful inaugural year

gmartin@islandpacket.comDecember 9, 2011 

Michelle Cutting of Midnight Bakers helps Judy Safay make the difficult decision on what kind of fresh baked goods she'll bring home during the last day for the season of the Farmers Market at Honey Horn Friday morning.

JONATHAN DYER, THE BEAUFORT GAZETTE

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The Hilton Head Farmers Market wrapped up its inaugural year Friday at Honey Horn, and organizers and participants are already looking forward to 2012.

"It's been fabulous," said Pamela Ovens, the market's president. "This has become a real blessing for the island."

Since opening April 1, Ovens said, the market has attracted between 550 and 850 visitors each Friday. They could stroll among 40 to 50 vendors selling locally produced food and crafts.

Merchants paid $20 per week -- farmers were charged $15 -- for the space to sell their goods.

Ovens credited Hilton Head officials for much of the market's success, saying "the town worked really well with us."

She praised the venue as well, saying the peaceful surroundings created an intimate atmosphere.

"We don't have live music here," she said. "People can talk with one another as they walk around here."

She also credited the diversity of the market's offerings. In addition to fresh produce, seafood and baked goods, customers could browse local artwork and locally grown flowers.

In turn, the vendors appreciated the opportunity to broaden their consumer base.

"I don't have a retail outlet, and this has become a fabulous venue for me," said Barrett Collins, selling peanut brittle near a mobile crepe stand. "What this community is doing for helping small businesses succeed is wonderful."

James Spano, selling freshly roasted coffee, shared Collins' enthusiasm.

"I'm based in Savannah, and this has been a great opportunity to meet folks in Hilton Head," he said. "I think (the market's) done very well, especially for its first year."

Hilton Head resident T.R. Love, a self-described "regular" on Friday mornings, said he had come to value the market as a social event.

"When it first started, it was maybe half this size," he said, gesturing toward the dozens of tents erected on the former plantation's grounds.

"Now you see people from all over the island and make new friends every week. I can't wait to come back next year."

Follow reporter Grant Martin at Twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

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