As the sun tries to break through the clouds on the last Saturday in April, the atmosphere at the City Market at the Museum is cheery and upbeat.
Most of the nearly 25 vendors have set up their tables and arranged their wares. A few are still organizing their stock while chatting with neighbors.
Like many open-air markets, you will find more than fruits and vegetables and locally raised poultry and meats.
You’ll also find unique pieces like handmade ink pens or handcrafted items such as jewelry and candles. You can pick up “rainbow eggs’’ or try local honey.
Each vendor is more than willing to take the time to answer questions or offer suggestions about how to use their products.
William Horne sits in a chair watching the morning’s foot traffic while his wife, Joyce, waits on customers. When needed, he walks up to their table and helps bag the cucumbers, peppers or corn that shoppers select to take home.
He operates Horne Produce across the county line near Autryville, where he grows much of his produce. He was raised on a farm but spent a career with UPS. When he retired in 1988, he went back to farming, he says.
“There’s a lot of hard work in it, but it’s rewarding work,’’ he says.
He has been part of the market in downtown Fayetteville for about 12 years.
One woman hands Joyce Horne kale along with red, orange and yellow peppers.
“That corn looks good, too,’’ the woman says. “Let’s get a pack of it.’’
As her choices are placed into bags, she tells her companion: “It’s going to be a veggie weekend.’’
Christina McMillan of Fayetteville leaves the Hornes’ table carrying four bags of produce and a plant.
“The fact that people make this or grow it themselves, that is so important,’’ she says. “We support our local businesses.’’
Melissa Iglesias talks with her neighboring vendor and others who stop by. Her business is Apocrypha Art. She has handmade resin crafts as well as bath and body provisions, including salts, sugar scrubs, soaps and beard oils.
Iglesias is a disabled veteran who lives in Red Springs. She discovered the market on trips to Fayetteville, and she has been a vendor since last August, she says.
“I like meeting new people and getting out of the house,’’ she says.
She works full-time at farming. She has goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys, even a miniature donkey.
“This is a great place to find brand new things that you didn’t necessarily know anybody had,’’ she says when asked what she would tell people unfamiliar with the market.
Catherine Linton is a museum specialist who oversees the market, which is held on the museum property.
“The only criteria we require,’’ Linton says, “is that everything must be home-grown or homemade.’’
She says the vendors probably sell more crafts than produce and edible goods. That diversity of products is one of the attractions of this and other markets. You may start your day looking for fresh chicken or sweet potatoes and strawberries, but a potted plant or colorful drying towel might catch your eye.
There are about 40 vendors who rotate through, some more regularly than others, Linton says. On average, there are 25 each week. There is no vendor fee to participate in the City Market. Potential vendors must submit an application to the museum staff.
Don Johnson of Fayetteville is another vendor who has operated at the market for more than a decade. Adults and children stop by for a hot dog, soda, popcorn or cup of coffee. He casually talks with those who make a purchase, as well as the other vendors.
There is a sense of community among those who work here.
“We get to know each other,’’ Johnson says.
While he and others have been operating from the downtown market for years, there are new vendors joining the lineup all the time, he says
“Come and check us out,’’ he says. “Come out and socialize and see what’s happening downtown.’’
Katrina Thornton says she is a regular. She tries to make it to the market at least once a month. Mr. Horne’s produce is one of the things she likes about it. On this day, she finds strawberries, honey, yellow squash and zucchini.
“It’s not going to last the whole month, but… ” she says.
Knowing the vendors and creating relationships are part of the attraction.
John Parker with Parkers 10 Acre Farm has been selling at City Market about six years. Eggs, pork and poultry are among his wares. Some of the people who seek him out are looking for meats that were raised without additives or hormones, he says.
“It’s a small community,’’ Parker says. “We have our regulars who come every week or every other week.’’
Parker turns his attention to a customer, sliding easily into a conversation about what’s on special.
For him and others, it’s just another day at the market.
Donnie Byers contributed to this story.
If you go:
The City Market at the Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at 325 Franklin St. on the grounds of the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum.
The City Market at the Museum is not the only farmers market around.
Several others can be found in the Fayetteville-Sandhills region with a bit of searching. One of the newest is Sandhills Made Market at Sweet Valley Ranch.
Located at 2990 Sunnyside School Road in Fayetteville, the market is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first and third Saturday of the month through October. The 300-acre market bills itself as a sustainable farm and ranch where nature meets adventure. The ranch description stems from the roughly 350 animals that call it home.
But it’s the 65 acres of agricultural fields and farmers market that most visitors get excited about. Boasting nearly 50 vendors and six to eight food trucks regularly, the market offers everything from fresh produce and baked goods to beer and wine.
Shoppers and bargain hunters can browse a large selection of handmade embroidery, floral art, home decor, handmade jewelry and woodwork. Pet owners can shop for treats and clothing for their furry loved ones.
Sandhills Made Market also offers children and the young-at-heart seasonal activities and entertainment such as its Springtime Adventures inflatable park, carnival games and go-kart nature trail rentals. Less daring visitors can opt to take a 30-minute guided tour of the market’s elaborate trail system.
To learn more, go to sweetvalleyranchnc.com or call 844-622-FARM or 844-622-3276.
Listed below are some other popular farmers markets in the area:
Dirtbag Ales Farmers Market, 5435 Corporation Drive, Hope Mills
Locally grown fresh produce and other products from the Sandhills region, including vegetables and homemade jellies and jams. An open-air market features live music, children’s entertainment and a large selection of adult beverages.
Open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday; closed July 3
Contact: dirtbagales.com or 910-426-2537
Gillis Hill Road Produce, 2899 Gillis Hill Road
Located in western Cumberland County, this family-owned venture is a bustling market that offers a wide variety of fresh produce, homemade jellies and jam, food novelties, and farm and landscaping supplies. Its annual strawberry picking is one of the largest in the region. It also offers a daily and holiday-themed children’s playground area and hayrides.
Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday
Contact: facebook.com/gillishillroadproduce or 910-308-9342.
T&T Farmers Market, 3755 Cumberland Road
Features seasonal, locally grown produce, including strawberries, peas, butterbeans and okra, as well as locally made jellies, jams, ciders and pickled foods.
Open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Sunday
Contact: facebook.com/TandTfarmermarket/ or 910-425-6318
Pate’s Farm Market, 6411 Raeford Road
Features locally grown produce, a tree farm, floral nursery and hot-bar menu for diners. Lunch plates start at $11 with one meat and two sides. Current lunch menu options include spaghetti, chicken pot pie and fried chicken.
Contact: patesfarmmarket.com or 910-426-1575
Editor's note: This list was updated to correct the address and phone number for Gillis Hill Road Produce and to remove the Murchison Road Community Farmers Market, which is not operating this year.
-Compiled by Donnie Byers