The Richmond Hill Farmers Market is back for its second season and already drawing large crowds.
Despite heavy rains and claps of thunder, hundreds of people turned out for the first market on April 3 to browse the merchandise, which included everything from farm-fresh produce to homemade soaps and dog biscuits.
More than 30 vendors from around the region lined the pavilion, and organizer Angus McLeod said the event was "extremely well-received" by the community.
"We've had around 400-500 people so far, even with the weather," he said. "Both the vendors and the customers have given us great responses, and I think it's going to be a really good year."
Customers like Julie Lyons, who purchased fruits and vegetables from Johnson's Produce, appreciated the quality available at the market.
"I really like being able to get good fresh fruits and vegetables," she said. "I like knowing that most of them come from around here."
This is the second year that Randall Hall, a farmer from Baxley, has sold his produce at the market. Hall, whose inventory includes fresh onions, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and more, believes farmers markets benefit both producers and consumers.
"I think this is a great thing for the whole community," he said. "It helps farmers move their produce locally, and the customers get to know where their food is coming from."
For those reasons, local markets like the one in Richmond Hill have become increasingly popular over the last decade.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture's marketing division, the number of farmers markets operating in the United States has more than doubled since 2004.
Farmers markets give producers like Hall and Randy Shreve, who sells canned goods from the Great Food Co-op at the Richmond Hill market, a secure and regular outlet for their products that costs less than the typical grocery store.
"These markets are a great venue for farmers to get healthy food to the customer without involving a middleman or big corporate shipping," said Shreve.
On the other side of the coin, consumers are able to access fresh, locally grown food with a footprint. Because they're purchasing directly from the source, consumers know where the products came from and how they were prepared. There are no guessing games about production practices because the person selling the food also raised it.
The Richmond Hill Farmers Market will be open Tuesdays from 3-7 p.m. from now until October. The market will be held in all weather conditions, and leashed pets are welcome. Live entertainment will be provided on the first Tuesday of each month.
For more information and a list of regular vendors, visit www.rhga-market.com.