The Secret Ingredient is Community

SoCo Farmers Market Returns June 4 

After years of attempts in different locations under different leadership, the new organizers of the South County Farmers Market hope that they have found the secret ingredient: community support. Kelly Bell and Sherisha Forrester believe their hard work coupled with great vendors, an easy-to-find spot, and partnerships with local businesses is a recipe for longevity. 

Drawing on their own expertise as bakers and caterers, Bell and Forrester teamed up two years ago to help restart the farmers market, now at the Deale Library. “Mostly it was Sherisha leading the charge,” says Bell, who also runs Bell House Catering at the former Rogue Pierogies site in Annapolis. “When she started looking for new vendors, I reached out and we just clicked. I not only became a vendor but agreed to take on the promotion and marketing side of things.” 

Turning to social media has stirred interest and created loyal visitors. Through Facebook posts and live videos, the market spotlights the smaller farmers, producers, and vendors that otherwise might not draw customers on their own. 

“The first year of this market, we really worked on growing our visitor base, but we began to notice we had a lot of ‘boat people,’ not necessarily people that live in the community. Those boaters are awesome but we are now trying to figure out how to draw more locals… so we started tagging and challenging area businesses in our posts, with silly dance challenges, that sort of thing,” says Bell. 

This year’s market will include gift baskets from business sponsors to be raffled off to visitors each week. The new campaign kicks off with support from child learning center The Polymath Place, who have donated a $250 summer gift card for a lucky market guest. 

Also new this year will be heightened safety precautions. While the market is outdoors, guests will now follow a one-way direction as they visit vendors. Hand sanitizer will be available as well as a map of vendors to discourage crowding around booths.  

The time will shift slightly, too. “A lot of businesses don’t close down till 6pm, so we were missing a lot of commuters on our old schedule, so we have changed our times to 4-7pm this year,” says Bell. 

While baked goods are the biggest hits in the SoCo Market, Bell and Forrester take care not to overlap too much. Forrester, who runs her own business Sweet Audrey’s Southern Bakery in addition to working at South County Café, is known for her cinnamon rolls and tarts, while Bell tackles cheesecake and gluten-free goodies. Their friendly competition is well planned, though. “We discuss early on who is making what and we both have clientele who visit the other’s booth.” 

The market works hard to not bring in too much of the same items. “We don’t have a lot of vendors but we offer a good variety,” says Bell. Market-goers can find produce, baked goods, get knives sharpened and even pick up a bottle of wine from Whistlestop Winery. Various crafters are also at the market on occasion. Follow SoCo Farmers Market on Facebook for special events and the weekly lineup. 

This year’s market vendors include: 3 Dummies Produce, Sweet Audrey’s Southern Bakery, Bell House Catering, Portland Manor Farm, Deep Cove Farm, Mimi’s Microgreens, Whistle Stop Winery, and Mike’s Knives.