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' Market on 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.
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.
Livingston Farms in Woodford was there with peaches, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, yellow squash and zucchini.
Caw Caw Creek pork is always for sale at the market, which was founded by Caw Caw Creek owner Emile DeFelice.
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.