Sustainable Sandhills and Sweet Valley Ranch are teaming up to bring an exciting new farmer's market to the people of the Sandhills.
Sandhills M.A.D.E. Market at Sweet Valley Ranch will launch on May 7 and continue every first and third Saturday through Oct. 15.
M.A.D.E., an acronym for makers, agriculturalists, designers and entrepreneurs, is a project of Sustainable Sandhills, and this will be its first year in operation.
Up & Coming Weekly spoke with Jonelle Kimbrough, who has been executive director of Sustainable Sandhills for the past three years.
"The market provides a place for farmers, artisans and crafters to come together and have an outlet to sell their products to the local community while also connecting them with a consumer base in the absence of a brick and mortar store."
The market is especially eager to connect those who sell fresh produce with those who may have difficulty finding it.
Sweet Valley Ranch, located off I-95, is considered to be part of a low-access tract area, meaning a significant portion of the population lives more than one mile away from a grocery store or supermarket, making it a challenge to purchase fresh, affordable produce.
Kimbrough hopes the market not only creates access to these goods but brings exposure to those providing such a valuable service.
"Local food is healthier, better for the environment and better for the economy," she said.
According to their website, Sustainable Sandhills is a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening communities by creating resilient environmental, economic and social resources for current and future generations.
The organization aims high with this new endeavor and hopes it will be bigger than the average farmer's market.
"Small businesses are the cornerstone of the local community, and they keep money in our community. When you shop locally, you're giving money to a family, possibly a neighbor, not another big box store," she continued.
"We take pride in recruiting vendors of all backgrounds. We support small businesses owned by women, veterans and members of the BIPOC community. While other markets in the area have a long waitlist to participate, this market is a great opportunity for newer vendors who want to get their names and products out. We want to be a network for small business owners, helping them market and sell to their local community."
North Carolina is home to around 217 farmer's markets. It is ranked tenth in the number of farmer's markets in the United States.
"I would say this market is different because we have a unique set of vendors who possess a wide variety of skills," Kimbrough told Up & Coming Weekly. "We have vendors that produce their meat right here in the Sandhills, apothecaries, just so many types of artists and crafters who create a great cross-section of makers and farmers."
Only goods grown, raised or made in North Carolina are accepted at the market. The hands that sell the products are the same ones that made the product which Kimbrough feels is an essential aspect of this program.
Another unique feature of the M.A.D.E. market is its location.
Sweet Valley Ranch, an agro-attraction here in Fayetteville, will have activities for just about everyone on market days. Dinosaur World, inflatables, Go-Karts and fun seasonal activities will make this market fun for the whole family. Parents can shop and enjoy the food trucks while kids can get out and run around.
"We're looking forward to getting it open and underway," said Kimbrough optimistically. "We're excited for everyone to come out and have a good time."
The Sweet Valley Ranch is located at 2990 Sunnyside School Road.
For more information about the market or to be a vendor, visit https://sustainablesandhills.org/sweetvalleyranchmarket/.