In 2020, the Poe Center for Health Education contacted the Fuquay-Varina Chamber of Commerce to learn more about the local grower’s market, and why it had closed its doors in 2018. After learning more about the market’s history, and establishing an interest in the area for its reopening, a team from the Poe Center collaborated with the Chamber to help get the Growers Market back up and running. Partners rallied behind the market to provide sponsorships, and vendors signed up to kick off the 2021 season and make it a success. Throughout the return season, the Poe Center hosted a booth providing nutrition education, activities, and food samples, while Poe staff worked behind the scenes to allow the market to provide SNAP/EBT and WIC/Senior FMNP benefits to customers. The next step was to find ways to support the market with a focus on sustainability and strengthening a community network.
The initial steps toward sustainability included securing ongoing funding for the Growers Market through grants and sponsorships and hiring a full-time market manager. While planning for the 2022 market season, a team comprised of Poe staff, the market manager, and a handful of college interns were able to secure resources to enhance the mission of the market, which is “to provide
healthy eating and active living opportunities and connections between local farmers and community members, and to provide a convenient and affordable resource for local foods”. New programs have been put into place, including doubling SNAP/EBT and FMNP benefits, buybacks from farmers, produce donations to four local food security sites, bilingual communication material, stipends for BIPOC, women or Wake County vendors, weekly live music, kid’s activities, and increased promotion through social media. Wake County has been instrumental in supporting the market and making these programs possible.
Through these outreach and sustainability efforts, the Growers Market has seen expansion through vendor and customer count, the latter of which has quadrupled since the previous season. This has brought increased foot traffic to local businesses in downtown Fuquay and got the attention of several return customers, including the town mayor. The market has seen an outpouring of support from the community. The town of Fuquay-Varina provided street banners and permanent signage on the Chamber of Commerce building, where the market is held Saturdays, from mid-April to mid- September.
The Poe Center continues to support the market through a monthly nutrition education booth, a web-based, and community building. The Growers Market has always been built for the community, by the community. Through incredible partnerships, the willingness of local volunteers to assist with setup and operations, and a continued focus on sustainability, the market will continue to Grow for many years to come.