Lenoir indoor market keeps it local for the holidays

Dec. 20, 2013 @ 08:30 AM

The growing season is over for most farmers, but the Lenoir’s Indoor Farmer’s Market remains open.

Jeff Crane, president and co-manager of the year-round indoor market, said the market draws customers not only for such things as produce and local eggs but crafts -- some customers are looking for a Christmas gift with a local touch.

“People have been shopping a lot more, just buying normal stocking-stuffer type stuff,” Crane said, adding that gift baskets and meats are high on that list.

David Gourley of Holly Springs, who stopped by Thursday and bought some handmade socks of alpaca wool, said small shops like this appeal to him.

“I like the eclectic collection you can’t find in big box stores,” Gourley said. “Plus, I’m able to support local artists.”

The market's challenge for this time of year, Crane says, is getting produce. There is still a demand for summer vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers, but the number of local farmers still producing them is limited. Some farmers have told Crane they would have built greenhouses or planted seed to continue growing their produce had they known the market was open year-round.

Cold-weather lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower and other greens are starting to fill the shelves at the market.

Since the market opened Aug. 1, one of the best sellers has been fresh eggs, Crane said. There are several vendors, but not enough to meet demand, said Linda Holland-West, a member of the market’s board of directors.

“People want local eggs,” she said.

Crane says he has noticed customers becoming more aware about where their food comes from, and Crane likes to be able to tell customers that he has been to the farm himself.

“We just try to stress ‘shop local first.’ We’re not going to have bananas, pineapples or oranges,” Crane said.

The growing season is over for tomatoes and other summer vegetables, but lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower and other greens are starting to fill the shelves at the market.

Twenty-eight vendors sell at the market, and on an average day about 40 or 50 customers will come in, Holland-West said.

The market has stepped up efforts to increase community involvement and funds, cooking out each Saturday to offer plates of meats and veggies from the market for donations, sometimes drawing as many as 200 customers.

One of the most popular treats is one you won't find at a regular grocery store, Crane said: “Everyone loves frog legs,” especially with his signature homemade barbecue sauce.

Looking to next year, the market is working to plan four big, community events, including an herb festival, with speakers and educational opportunities, as well as an ice cream social in the summer.

The market is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 912 West Ave.