By Nathan Ham
It was a picture-perfect scene on the opening day of the Watauga County Farmers’ Market on Saturday. A beautiful blue sky without a cloud to be seen greeted vendors and shoppers as folks gathered around to enjoy the opening day.
“Everybody is totally excited to be out and seeing the bounty of the farmers and crafters,” said Matt Cooper, president of the Watauga County Farmers’ Market and the operator of Lively Up Farm. “We have some lovely new vendors that are bringing different mushroom varieties now and a vendor specializing in beef jerky from his locally sourced beef. We’ve seen some nice wood products. The ceramics folks have their pottery out, there are a lot of beautiful flowers for sale and of course your seasonal produce.”
The opening day of the market had more of the community feel to it that was lacking during last summer with strict COVID-19 protocols in place. This year there was a cooking demonstration from Caldwell Community College and plenty of live music like had always been a tradition in the past.
“It’s a good opening day, there are a lot of people out enjoying themselves. It seems more like normal times. Business has been pretty good,” said Bill Moretz of Moretz’s Mountain Orchard.
Cooper has been a vendor at the market for the past 13 years, and has been a board member for about 12 of those years and has continued serving as the market’s president for around a decade.
“We average about 1,200 people every Saturday and I’d say we are easily there today,” he said on Saturday “A year ago wasn’t so great, but the loyal customers kept us going. Everybody looks much happier than last year, you will see a little less mask wearing due to people being vaccinated and the mandates that have been lifted. There is definitely more social interaction than last year. Everybody is more informed and experienced with the pandemic.”
Other vendors were also excited to be out at Horn in the West for a more normal feeling opening day.
“This is my 25th year here at the market and I believe this is the biggest opening day I have seen. I think everybody is excited to be out and about and enjoying a gorgeous spring day and we are excited to see them,” said Susan Graham, owner of Laureland Greenhouse in Todd.
Jason Roehrig of Tumbling Shoals Farm in Millers Creek said he was enjoying the good vibes of the farmers’ market.
“It has been a beautiful first market, the weather couldn’t be better. There are lots of people out and it really feels like people have been waiting for this moment to get outside after a crazy year,” he said. “The crops have been a little slow with a cooler than average spring, but so far so good with the way the season is progressing.”
Springhouse Farm, located in Vilas, was there on Saturday, represented by owner Amy Fiedler.
“It has been really great to see some familiar faces that we haven’t seen in a year. It is a little strange being post-covid, but I feel safe and so happy to see people again,” Fiedler said. “We’ve missed everybody, it has been a great day and we’ve been really busy. Hopefully, this is what is to come for the summer and hopefully it stays busy.”
The Watauga County Farmers’ Market takes place each Saturday, 8 a.m. until noon, from May through November, at the Horn in the West in Boone.
Pictures from Saturday’s opening day at Farmers Market