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Chat up your neighborhood farmer at the market

Gwen Fowler Gwen Fowler
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.
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If you visit local farmers' markets and spend some time meeting the farmers there, you quickly learn there's a great story behind why many of them are doing what they're doing.

I found that to be the case on a recent visit to the great All-Local Farmers' Marketon Whaley Street in Columbia, when I met Kelly and Shelly Hammond of Trail Ridge Farm and Dairy in Aiken.

They were at the market selling their goat cheese, a business that grew out of a home school project for their five children. They started with two goats, which supplied them with three gallons of milk a day. Even for a family of seven, that's a lot of milk. So they began experimenting with goat cheese, trying out different recipes and letting friends sample it. Soon their friends were telling them they needed to sell their goat cheese.

They began selling it at the Aiken County Farmers Market. In addition to the Whaley market, they also sell at the S.C. State Farmers Market in West Columbia and at the Sandhill Farmers Market.

The Hammonds now have 24 goats in their herd, and the whole family helps sell the goat cheeses and soaps they make. The children, ages 11 to 24, all help out on the farm and at the markets. The oldest daughter recently married and moved to Canada.

Trail Ridge has been selling at the Whaley Street market on Saturdays about once a month for the past 6 ½ years. They began also working the market on Wednesday evenings last fall. (The Wednesday afternoon market has now stopped temporarily for the summer because of the heat.)

City Roots, a sustainable farm in downtown Columbia was there when I visited, selling carrots that looked like they'd just come out of the ground, some long, curved English cucumbers, tomatoes, herbs and more.

Chef Mike Davis of Terra was there picking up produce from City Roots for his restaurant that evening. He likes to bring his children on Saturdays.

Keith Willoughby of Wil-Moore Farms in Lugoff is a regular at the market, selling his pasture-raised chickens.

Livingston Farms in Woodford was there with peaches, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, yellow squash and zucchini.

Shennice Cleckley was at the market for the debut of her new business, Cakepopalooza. Her cakepops are delicious little treats shaped like a lollipop, but they're cake. I tasted a lemon one with white chocolate frosting, and it was yummy. Cleckley has been in the food business with a dessert catering company, My Dessert Bar, but this was her first time out selling her Cakepopalooza cakepops.

Caw Caw Creek pork is always for sale at the market, which was founded by Caw Caw Creek owner Emile DeFelice.

You can even buy lots of food at the market that you don't have to cook. Kristian Niemi, owner of Rosso's Trattoria Italia, serves up great meals on Wednesday and Saturdays. On a recent Wednesday he was serving spinach and chicken cannelloni with heirloom tomato cream sauce and mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette.

On Saturday mornings, Catherine and Fritz Gusmer from Windy Hill Orchard in York are there making fresh apple doughnuts or sometimes blueberry or strawberry doughnuts. Paolo's Gelato and Indah Coffee Co. are there on Saturdays.

The market also is a great place for shopping for inedible things, including fresh flowers, pottery, jewelry and sweet grass baskets, One of the newest vendors, Plain Baby, sells onesies that have animal designs, cut from old shirts, sewn on them.

This market is much more than a place to go buy things in a hurry. It's a great place to linger over breakfast or dinner at one of the long tables on the covered porch. Sometimes there's live music, and there's always a real feeling of community.

You can follow the market on facebook or sign up for its e-newsletter to find out details.

Gwen Fowler
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.