‘Meet Your Farmers’ at Old Town Market Hall

adouglas@heraldonline.comJanuary 16, 2013 

  • Want to go? ‘Meet Your Farmer’

    When: 10 a.m.-noon Saturday

    Where: Old Town Market Hall, 121 Caldwell St., Rock Hill

    Cost: Free

    Ag and Art Tour

    When: June 8 and 9

    Where: Self-guided tour of York County farms and artists

    Cost: Free

    Information: agandarttour.com

— The new Old Town Market Hall will host local food producers Saturday in a “Meet Your Farmers” event in downtown Rock Hill.

Farmers from York and Chester counties will explain their growing methods and sell locally produced seasonal items such as honey, meats and hot sauces, and locally grown flowers, produce and other food items.

Farms and businesses scheduled to participate are Tirzah Farm and Flowers of York, Mama Beehive Honey Farm of Clover, Lovern Landscape & Greenhouse of Fort Lawn, Pennington Produce of Rock Hill, PuckerButt Pepper Co. of Fort Mill, The Pennell Barn of York, Watson Farms of Lowrys and T & M Farms of Chester.

The Rock Hill City Council in July hired Leitner Construction to transform two buildings and a Caldwell Street parking lot into the canopy-covered, open-air market and event space called Old Town Market Hall.

The $552,422 project includes improved parking and lighting in the Caldwell Street lot and outdoor improvements – canopies hanging from adjacent buildings, new windows and doors for the buildings, and access to utilities for vendors or event participants.

The project will be paid for with money from a special tax district established to foster downtown development. The cost came in at less than the $775,000 budgeted and the $600,000-plus projected in initial engineering estimates.

In exchange for improvements to their buildings’ facades associated with the market, two property owners are investing in renovations to the interiors of their buildings, which city officials hope will attract new businesses downtown.

The Rock Hill market also will have more information about a summer opportunity to meet local farmers.

The upcoming “Ag and Art Tour” had its first run in York County last year. The tour and meet-and-greet with farmers is paid for in part by York County hospitality tax money.

The tour’s success has made it a model for other communities interested in supporting local farmers and artists, coordinator Ben Boyles said. The second annual “Ag and Art Tour” will pull in visitors from Charlotte, Greenville and Columbia.

Event participants take a self-guided tour around York County and can buy food and items from farmers, locally owned restaurants and artists. The tour is scheduled at the start of the summer growing season June 8-9.

“People can meet their farmers and establish a relationship that will last all season,” Boyles said.

The tour had 20 stops last year, including the Sanders family peach farm and produce roadside stand in Filbert. Dori Sanders runs the farm, which is one of the oldest African-American-owned farms in the region.

Many towns and counties host farm tours, Boyles said, but York County’s tour is unique because it includes local artists.

York County Quilters partnered with the “Ag and Art Tour” last year to host York’s “From Barns to Bedcovers Porch Tour,” which features the art of quilting.

Artists will set up at many of the participating York County farms to sell home-made crafts, such as pottery, jewelry and woodcrafts.

Also returning for next year’s tour is Tirzah Farm and Flowers, one of the biggest hits last year, Boyles said.

The demand for locally grown food and products is growing, Boyles said, especially in and around Charlotte.

About $6,000 from York County’s hospitality tax will help pay for marketing the tour. Clemson University’s Cooperative Extension service in York County also is helping pay for expenses.

Outside support helps keep the event free for families who want to teach their kids about agricultural and art, Boyles said.

“It’s education, economic development and tourism,” he said, “all in one.”

Anna Douglas 803-329-4068

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