Vendors fill stalls at market

Published 12:42 pm Friday, June 30, 2017

It takes Debbie Yerby about 45 minutes to an hour to make the long drive from her hometown of Claremont in Surry County to downtown Franklin, but the vendor of homemade flavored oils and meat rubs does it gladly each week to participate in Franklin’s Market on Main.

“This is one of my best markets; that’s why I come,” she said, lamenting she had forgotten to bring her handmade wreaths this particular week. “Whenever there’s something large going on, I try to come, especially if I’ve been invited.

“I try to teach people they can flavor their food without salt and fats. I grow all my own herbs and most of my own peppers with no GMOs (genetically modified organisms) or artificial ingredients.”

Yerby is the second-most distant vendor to exhibit at the Farmer’s Market this year, the most distant being a seafood vendor from Richmond. According to Karen Cobb, the coordinator of the Farmer’s Market, most of Franklin’s other vendors are far more local.

“Our mushrooms are local; our biscuits are local; everything’s local,” Cobb said.

Ken Francis, owner of Cross Keys Farms in Newsoms, offered to come as a vendor when he heard that Cobb and Dan Howe, executive director of the Downtown Franklin Association, were seeking to revitalize and expand Franklin’s market this year. He said he has been farming full-time for about three years, but has been trying to grow his own food all his life.

Fellow farmer John Gasser of Suffolk said that all of his produce has been certified as naturally grown, which he explained to mean “very, very, very organic.”

“We don’t use chemicals on anything,” he said.

Jean Eason, owner of Baskets by Jean, said she has been making handmade baskets for about 25 years, but that this was her first year as a vendor at the Franklin Farmer’s Market. Bobby Varmette, an employee of the Hubbard Peanut Company, said that “Hubs” is likewise in its first year as a vendor.

Joanne Thompson of Suffolk is a somewhat more experienced vendor at Franklin’s Farmer’s Market, this being her second year participating.Thompson makes and sells handmade goats milk soaps.

“I started making my soap just for myself and giving it to friends until they said, ‘Joanne, you’ve gotta start selling this.

“It’s all natural; it’s the best thing you can put on your skin.”

Sharon Martin, whom residents may know as the school nurse for Franklin High School, is also a vendor at the farmer’s market. The North Carolina native partners with Jeff Nelson of Conway to market their Bee Sweet Honey brand. Martin explained that Nelson is the point person on the honey, one variety of which is made from poplar trees and the other from cotton blossoms, with a little help from the bees, of course. She, on the other hand, makes and sells blackberry jam.

Cobb said that the Franklin Farmer’s Market on average attracts between 10 to 14 vendors each week and that the market has grown each week this year since beginning in May.

“Our plans are for the market to continue to grow our customer and vendor base,” she said. “We also are planning to engage with other organizations in the community to educate the public about what they can offer. We have the YMCA for exercise, the library, PACC for animal adoption, the Virginia Cooperative Extension office. We are adding vendors every week. We would like to add a bakery vendor and meats vendor.”

The farmer’s market is held every Wednesday through September beginning at 4:30 p.m. It is held on Main Street in a wood pavilion. It is also open on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.