MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
There’s nothing like strolling through a vibrant farmers market. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables overflowing from baskets; the smell of fresh-baked cookies and pies lingering in the air, and the hum of a community coming together – it’s enough to entice anyone.
Beginning Tuesday, the Onslow County Farmers Market will set up shop at the Marine Corps Exchange parking lot aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. The market will be held every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
According to Larry Kent, a board member of the Onslow County Farmers Market, patrons can expect a wide array of produce, upwards of 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables.
Additionally, visitors will have access to food vendors with menu items ranging from French cuisine to vegetable wraps to roasted peanuts, as well as arts and craft vendors with everything from soaps and skin care products to forged metal tools and wood sculptures.
“Offering a range of products is very important to us. It gives a wider choice of both products, and ideas,” said Kent. “Whether that idea is a recipe obtained at the market or a gift for the kids, a friend or a loved one.”
Over the last two decades, farmers markets have grown exponentially, with just over 2,000 in 1996 to more than 8,000 in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In Onslow County alone, there are now four markets, according to Kent.
“The rise in the number of farmers markets in Onslow County, as well as in the nation, is due in part to the public growing awareness of our country’s health or lack thereof in the case of rising obesity and diabetes rates, as well as a growing concern as to how our food is being grown; with herbicides, pesticides and hormones or not,” explained Kent.
According to Timothy McCurry, Community Plans and Liaison officer for Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River, hosting the farmers market on base addresses three key issues, quality of life, community outreach and mission sustainment.
“There is a growing demand by consumers for locally-produced food,” said McCurry. “The installation’s farmers market will bring easy access to fresh, healthy produce for active-duty, retiree, civilian workers and their families.”
Because farmers markets often feature produce and food that is grown both naturally and organically, the taste quality is superior to that of other outlets. Farmers who sell their produce at farmers markets are able to retain the nutritional content of their products and pick their produce at the very peak of its flavor, according to the USDA.
Additionally, the food they sell does not need to travel very far to get to your table, which helps to ensure it does not get damaged or bruised as it often does when being transported to grocery stores.
Farmers markets are also an excellent center for community building, offering a place to connect with neighbors, meet local farmers and support local small businesses. Farmers markets stimulate local economies, returning three times as much of their sales to the local economy compared to their chain competitors, according to the USDA.
“By hosting a farmers market we send the message that we are vested in the local community,” added McCurry. “What’s good for the quality of life and economy outside the fence line is also good inside the fence line.”
But that’s not all; farmers markets also conserve the environment, according to the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. Since the delivery time of items is reduced when being shipped to farmers markets, the level of fossil fuels, that is the emissions from delivery trucks, is greatly reduced. Studies have also indicated the network of managed and sustainable farms that comprise the backbone of farmers markets, helps conserve water resources, as well as the purity of the soil.
“The Department of Defense has long recognized that farmland is compatible with the military mission. Agribusiness, especially crop production and forestry are recognized compatible land uses in air installations and range compatible use zones and enable the military to safely conduct training,” said McCurry.
Due to increased population migration to coastal communities, Onslow County has lost more than 13,000 acres of farmland, in total, between 1987 and 2007, according to McCurry.
By shopping at the farmers market you will not only be making a better decision for your health, but for your community, environment and the Marine Corps as well.The Onslow County Farmers Market will run through Aug. 26.
For more information, call 330-5732.