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Swain County Farmers Market takes off, thanks in part to Extension Master Gardener’s leadership

For years, organizers of the Swain County Farmers Market struggled to get vendors and customers, but an enthusiastic Master Gardener volunteer helped the market blossom in 2011 with a new location, new vendors and new customers.

Local farmer and Master Gardener Mike Glover took on the task of bolstering the farmers market as his way of giving back to Cooperative Extension and to his community. He recruited new members for the market’s board of directors, and he helped persuade the county commissioners to approve the use of county property in a convenient location along Main Street in downtown Bryson City, near the old courthouse.

Glover’s efforts complemented those of area agricultural Extension agent Christy Bredenkamp and former family and consumer education agent Renee Mulligan. The two agents focused on securing grant funds to promote the market through billboards and rack cards and who visited farmers markets in surrounding counties to recruit them for the Swain County market.  Meanwhile, a local food pantry began offering vouchers that would allow people in need to purchase food at the market, and that has created a new pool of customers.

It was Glover’s idea to move the market from Saturday to Friday, so that it wouldn’t conflict with markets in nearby counties. As was the case in 2011, the market will be open this year on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. from the first week in May through the last week in October.

Glover, a retired professional fisherman, is a frequent vendor at the market, selling eggs and vegetables that he and his wife raise on the 5-acre Sleepy Hollow Farm. As a farmer, he appreciates Extension’s educational programs and services. “If I need help, I know where to go: to the Extension office,” he says. “They’re always helpful.”

Of his service as a Master Gardener volunteer, Glover says it’s rewarding to be able to help others. “I felt like it was something I could do to help people. I’ve been gardening basically for 60 years, and if I don’t know a little to help someone by now, I’m in trouble,” he says. “I love volunteering and trying to see people get food on their table.”


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