Bigger space, bigger vision for the Folly Beach Farmers Market
By Lorne Chambers | editor
Last month the Folly Beach’s Farmer’s Market took a big step forward, moving out of a parking lot of a local restaurant and into the much larger Folly River Park across the street. For the last three years, Folly resident Richard Brendel has organized the Folly Beach Farmer’s Market, growing it from practically nothing to a popular regular Wednesday night meet up where neighbors socialize, buy fresh vegetables and other goods — edible and artistic, and enjoy live music.
“When I started this market it was in the wake of the Alcohol Ban and I felt like the best way to bring the community back together would be around fresh vegetables, art, and music,” said Brendel. “I want the people of Folly, the locals and the tourist to come experience the positivity of having a viable farmers market.”
But Brendel thought it could be even better than it was. To do that, however, he would need to move it from the parking lot of The Grill and Island Bar to a bigger space. Luckily, there was an under-utilized city park just across the street. In order to pull off an even bigger market, he was going to need the help of friend Sarah Poe.
“With Sarah’s expertise and background on all things organic and sustainable, plus the success of last years market we wanted to be able to expand,” said Brendel. “The Grill, especially owner Jason Craig, has been amazing in letting the market grow and flourish. I doubt that the market could have started in the park and been successful.”
Before they could get permission to use the park, Brendel had to go before City Council and plead his case. Every member of council who was present supported the idea with the exception of councilman Tom Scruggs, who said he was concerned the Farmer’s Market that Brendel and Poe envision sounded more like a festival.
“First, anyone who wants to get in to politics on any level has my full respect,” said Brendel. “I was a little caught off guard that anyone would object to something that was as good for the community as a farmers market. However, I feel that it will make us work even harder to prove ourselves in the eyes of city council and to the residents of Folly.”
Poe agrees with Brendel, extending an invitation to Scruggs to bring his family to the market to see for himself how it benefits the island. “I am here to create something positive for the community. There will always be people who don’t understand something until they see it come to fruition,” she said. “The park was built with the purpose of having a farmers market there. Those stands we drive by everyday were intended to house local farmers and I could see no better place for the market on the island.”
According to Poe, the park actually is more family-friendly place to hold something like a farmers market. “Now that we are in the park we can offer a safe and fun place for families to bring their children and enjoy the market,” she said. “We have grass, shade, breeze from the marsh, and the space we needed to invite more vendors to participate in our market.”
Poe and Brendel say they’re adding a lot of new aspects to the market including kids activities and learning opportunities. “We have enough grassy space to bring a blanket, have supper, do some shopping and enjoy some amazing local music while catching up with friends,” said Poe.
The first Folly Beach Farmers Market was held at the new park the last week of June and everyone there seemed to enjoy the new location and all that it had to offer — food trucks, more vendors, a gazebo for the musicians to play, and a place where families could sit in the grass and soak it all in.
Both Brendel and Poe are quick to deflect praise for what they’ve built. “The market is a community effort,” said Brendel. “It takes a village to make something grow and we have great support from the community.”
The Folly Beach Farmers Market is held from 6-9 p.m. every Wednesday from May through September at the Folly River Park. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/FollyBeachFarmersMarket.