Today marks the opening of a new season for the Rockingham Downtown Farmers Market. It’s also the last day it will be located on Harrington Square.
The farmers market is moving to the parking lot across from the Richmond County Judicial Center on West Franklin Street. There, vendors are expected to have more room to set up their enticing fruits, vegetables and other goods. The lot is owned by Ken Goodman, owner of the R.W. Goodman Company building. It was used for furniture store customers until the business closed last fall.
Rockingham City Manager Monty Crump believes the move will improve the farmers market experience for vendors and shoppers alike.
“The empty lot across from Goodman’s is a more desirable location,” he said. “The farmers market wanted to move, and we helped them per their request. We approached Ken Goodman about leasing the property. We’re leasing it for $300 per month and will provide one Porta John. Our goal as the city of Rockingham is to work with the farmers market to make it a better and safer place so it can grow into a more vital market than ever before.”
Crump wants to make it clear that the lease of the parking lot is only for the days and hours of the farmers market, from May through October. It is not being leased by the city for any other parking purposes or use, and is not available to the public for any other use.
The parking lot is private property available for sale or lease and as such has been blocked from the public since the closure of the store.
“It’s definitely a safer location for the farmers market,” Goodman said. “There won’t be cars to deal with coming around that corner at the square, and there’s a lot more space to work with. The reason I closed the parking lot was to make people aware it is there and available for purchase or lease. When it was full of cars, people assumed someone already owned it. I offered the county the chance to purchase the lot for court parking, but they weren’t interested. Since it has been blocked off, I’ve allowed some charities and nonprofit groups to use it at no charge. Now, the farmers market is leasing the space and I think it will be good for everyone.”
The market opens on the square for the last time from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. today. Wednesday afternoon will be its first day at its new location.
Jackie Sherrill, of David’s Produce, is looking forward to a big turnout this season, not only because of the better location but also due to the addition of Wednesday hours.
“We’re looking at Wednesdays from 3 p.m. until 6:30 p.m., tentatively,” she said. “We’ve had about 10 applications from vendors so far this year. We’re hoping to get more. In the past, a typical day will see between six and seven different vendors working with between 150 and 200 customers each day. It should be better. I think this will be better parking. If that’s been an issue before, this will fix that. It will look more like an event is taking place there. People will have room for tents and shelter.”
Farmers pay a $20 annual membership fee to belong to the farmers market. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and can be picked up from Paige Burns, assistant horticulture agent at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Office. The Richmond County Center is located at 123 Caroline St. in downtown Rockingham.
For more information, call 910-997-8255 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.