Orangeburg farmer Alvin Pair has been a vendor at the Downtown Orangeburg Farmers Market ever since the city first opened it five years ago.
During those early days, Pair never knew what Mother Nature had in store as he set up his booth in front of First Baptist Church in the downtown Memorial Plaza.
The intense summer heat and thunderstorms would often send him and customers scurrying for cover.
But for Pair and other vendors, those days are over as the market enjoys its brand new location under a roof at the Downtown Market Pavilion.
"It is outstanding, outstanding!," Pair, said standing next to his tables overflowing with fresh tomatoes, squash, okra, butter beans, cucumbers, sweet corn and peaches. "We don't have to worry about inclement weather — that is a big plus.
"All the customers can enjoy being under the pavilion because it is so cool," he continued. "We have fans."
The market at 1326 Russell St., next to a public parking lot and First Baptist Church, is open from 3 to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 8. It will run through August 18.
The market pavilion is equipped with LED lighting, fans and electricity, along with multi-stall restrooms.
The market has been averaging about 12 vendors throughout the summer, said Candice Roberson, Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization Association executive director.
She said the new location has meant an increase in vendor size as well as more customers.
"We no longer have to close due to weather. We also have heated and cooled restrooms for our vendors and customers," Roberson said. "With the pavilion, we are able to give our vendors access to electricity and WiFi. We also have a public municipal parking lot next to our location."
Roberson said feedback has been positive.
"We have received great feedback from not only vendors but customers," she said. "Under the pavilion is much cooler than the tents and tables in the middle of the road."
Bowman farmer David Wideman was busy trying to keep up with customer demand with his tables full of squash, tomatoes, peaches, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, peas and okra.
"It is better than the old location," he said. "When it rains, we don't have to pack up and leave."
Wideman says he has seen business increase since moving to the new location.
"People stay longer because it is cooler," he said. "They buy and are not in a rush to get out of the sun."
Orangeburg resident Sharon Cook comes to the downtown market every time it is open. She wouldn't miss it for the world.
"I don't have to go out in the field and pick it," she said. "I don't have sweat. I just have to come here and buy it. I love it.
"It is great," she said.
"I think it is wonderful," Xennie Weeks said, about the pavilion. "It has improved buying. It is spread out. With the present condition of the coronavirus, you can spread out here."
Weeks says he has not missed an opportunity to shop at the market.
"I love fresh produce," he said. "It is 100 percent better. Right now, we would be in the heat. The fans do help with the circulation."
Ray and Cindy Hall come all the way from Leesville to sell their produce. They have been coming to the Orangeburg market since its opening in May.
"I go to three markets in the state, and this is by far the most beautiful," he said. "Other markets are nice, but this one right here is well done."
"This is beautiful, beautiful," Hall said.
Ryan Williamson of Pine Hill was selling sweet corn at the market. It was his first time as a vendor.
"We just saw it being built and thought this is something we want to try out," Williamson said. "We planted some produce and here we are."
"It is a nice place," he said.
Due to COVID-19, precautionary measures are in place at the market.
The following safe shopping guidelines will mean several changes for visitors:
- Vendor tables are spaced at least 10 feet apart to maintain social distancing.
- Products are protected so customers cannot touch produce before buying, and signage is in place to help enforce that.
- The number of people allowed in the market at any one time is monitored.
- Vendors aren't allowed to set up if they show any obvious signs of illness.
- All tables are sanitized before the market opens and appropriately throughout market hours.
- Vendors and customers with underlying health issues will not be able to attend the market.
- Customers will be served one at a time, with others waiting at least 6 feet away to avoid crowding around vendors.
While DORA events and activities have been put on hold due to the coronavirus, Roberson said there are discussions with farmers about the possibility of extending the farmers market into the fall.
For more information, contact Candice Roberson at 803-531-6186.