A few months ago when I found out we were going to get another farmers market in our area, I will readily admit I paused for a second.
"That now makes three in Chatham County, with another in the development stages in Pooler," I said to myself. "Are there enough people out there willing to add another stop to their grocery runs on a Saturday morning?"
Well, after about 15 seconds of debate, I thought, "If ever there was a place to put a farmers market that would/could develop a loyal following, it would be on Wilmington Island."
And there you go.
Wilmington Islands Farmers' Market opened last weekend to dozens of people lining up to buy eggplant, squash or green peppers. It really was a sight to see.
Click here to view photos from the event
"Our first day was absolutely amazing," said Debby McIncrow, the market's manager.
You could just see in the volunteers' faces how elated they were to see the turnout, as so much hard work had gone into getting this market off of the ground.
"I absolutely loved seeing little red wagons being pulled in all directions, with children as happy as they could be," Debby tells me.
The reality is, if you ask me, strategically, this was brilliant.
The Farmers Market at Forsyth Park is the largest and most extensive we have in town. Every Saturday morning, I drive by the park and see it getting larger and larger. I know quite a few chefs who will take a ride over to Forsyth and base their day's specials around the freshest they can find.
Even a local bed and breakfast owner tells me one of the favorite parts of her weekend is walking down to the park to pick up something special and different for the day. Not to mention the fact it makes for a great morning stroll for tourists.
My point? The demand is there. The challenge is getting people to come downtown on a Saturday morning.
Sure, some will, but let's be honest. If I live on Wilmington Island and drive into town five days a week for work, am I really going to want to get back in that car Saturday morning for a bag of freshly roasted coffee? Probably not. This is where the new market on Wilmington Island can be poised for something special.
What can you find there? A lot of the same things you will find at other farmers markets. Fresh produce, quite obviously, but also a number of other things. There was a presence by Savannah River Farms and Hunter Cattle Company with their varieties of proteins. Roberto Leoci was there with his jams and sauces. Freshly ground coffees (with samples) and several others to fill in quite nicely.
There was an area where children could sit near a stage and have stories read to them, and even some homemade pies ready to take back home while you watched the Miami Hurricanes beat those Gators. (There, I got it in).
It was a wonderful environment that is already being looked at for expansion.
"We have 55 parking spaces," Debby tells me. "This number will never grow or shrink."
But they do have permission to use adjacent soccer fields if things get sticky in that department, and I think they could.
"We have pre-planned for 15 more 10-by-10 vendor plots right now," she says.
The market is on the grounds of Islands Community Church on Walthour Road. It's a wonderful neighborhood setting, and most of the vendor spots were taken up on opening day.
Let me be clear, I'm a downtown guy. I laugh when people tell me they don't or won't come to one of the prettiest zip codes in the state of Georgia.
But this much I do know: Islands residents are loyal. They will turn out to support their own. Especially when they've got something with lots of potential on their hands, and I think they do.
See you on TV!Quick Bytes from "Eat It and Like It"
â€¢ The next Smackdown on the Savannah Food and Wine Festival docket is Sept. 14 at Vic's on the River. They will have Georgia's one and only Master Sommelier at the event, along with a panel of Advanced Sommeliers: Jason Restivo, Olde Pink House; Doug Snyder, Ruth's Chris Steak House; Ryan McLoughlin, The Cloisters; Nathalie Milewski, Empire Distributors; and Clint Kummer, St. Simons Island. Martha Nesbit and Damon Lee Fowler will be preparing reinvented heirloom Southern recipes to pair with the wines. The charity partner for the event is the West Broad Street YMCA, which is hosting a raffle and live auction for some great prizes. Sounds like fun.
â€¢ Jim Zambito is the new executive chef and general manager at Oliva Restaurant and Bar, 10 Whitaker St. Look for him to add a few dishes to the existing menu.
â€¢ Season 3 of Eat It and Like It is just more than weeks away. Set your DVRs now. Sunday mornings at 7:30 a.m. on WSAV. We are having a blast putting this together - you know you will enjoy it.
â€¢ Tide Rolls over Johnny "Cash only" Football and his Aggies. Oregon empties the bench against Tennessee and GSU takes care of Wofford.