During the Healthy Carolina Farmers Market, an array of vendors from South Carolina bring their goods to sell on Greene Street every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The farmers market is a part of the Healthy Carolina Initiative. The main goal is to provide students with access to fresh produce. During a normal year, the market holds cooking classes, fitness classes and live music.
Each vendor sells sustainable and locally grown and sourced produce or locally made goods. Some vendors sell produce, baked goods, sauces, candles, jewelry, plants and more.
With each vendor specializing in a different assortment of products, Angela Scott, a first-year media arts student said she enjoyed the variety of the market.
Since the market only allows vendors that are small local businesses, most businesses hear about the market through word of mouth. Vendors go through Student Health Services to reserve a spot.
"Others vendors, they mentioned it to us, and we contacted the office; [the market] did not have a dessert vendor," VonGretchen Nelson-Donawald, owner of Bessie's Sweet Delights, said.
This March marks the first month back for the farmers market since the COVID-19 pandemic began, which means more restrictions for the market, including social distancing, different placement of vendors and requiring masks. Nonetheless, vendors said they are happy to be back.
“You can’t see if somebody is smiling at you or not. It is like you're looking at them, and they're looking at you, and you're like, 'It's good coffee,' and they can’t tell if you’re smiling,” Tina Franklin, owner of T2K Java, said.
Most businesses had to switch over to delivery due to the pandemic. For Bessie's Sweet Delights, that wasn’t a problem.
“We started going out and making those home and office deliveries. The malls were closed, the farmer markets were closed, which was our main source of income. So, we had to be innovative,” Nelson-Donawald said. "People, they're home all day, they want it sweet, and we had to find a way to get it to them."
To appeal more to college students, some vendors even change the way they make their products.
“When I’m at those farmers markets, it's more of, I guess you can say, the parents are out. So, they want the hot coffee,” Franklin said. "When you come to USC, the students are out, so they want their cold brew coffee."
Most of the vendors at the Healthy Carolina Farmers Market are purely pop-ups and attend multiple farmers markets a week. The market provides exposure for these small businesses to gain repeat customers.
"It helps farmers market vendors with exposure to this farmer market. And, like I said, a lot of the students not only come in support me here on Tuesdays, they come out — they know that I'm at Columbiana mall," Nelson-Donawald said. "On Saturdays, they come out to Soda City to visit us."
The market provides vendors with attention from a new market and also provides much-needed comfort to students who don't have as much access to fresh produce, baked goods or plants.
“They are so friendly, I can tell. It feels really homey,” Nyla Wizard, a first-year communications student, said.
Correction (March 30, 2021, at 1:02 p.m.): A previous version of this article misnamed Bessie's Sweet Delights as Bessie's Sweets. Also, VonGretchen Nelson-Donawald was misquoted as saying she goes to Columbia mall. She goes to Columbiana mall.