Farmer's market isn't just produce anymore

The farmer's market has always been the perfect place to pick up peaches, peppers, sweet potatoes and other delectable fruits and vegetables from the farm.

Now, during these tough economic times, the Piedmont Farmer's Market is not only a market for healthy food, but also a "market"-ing tool for cattle farmers, artisans and café owners looking for customers.

On a recent Saturday at Winecoff - the granddaddy of four Cabarrus County market locations - vendors also offered goods ranging from homemade pastries to handmade copper garden art and hand-sewn doggie outfits.

"Savor the homegrown, homemade, handcrafted experience," trumpets the brochure for the nonprofit organization that runs the markets.

Depending on the day and location, shoppers can find grass-fed beef, pastured pork and chicken; cheese; free-range eggs; honey and jams; artisan breads and pies; pickle relish and salsa; jewelry, clothing and furniture; candles and soaps; and garden art and pottery.

Under a market formula, up to 10 percent of items can be baked goods and 26 percent can be handcrafted, said David Goforth, a local N.C. extension agent who has worked with the market for years.

Market manager Lisa Wacheldorf said some vendors who have used the market as their main advertising tool are now taking the next step.

A bakery named Dough will open a in an Afton Village storefront this month. Brian Adinolfe, who runs the New York-style bakery with his wife, Dawn, had sold everything but a few cookies and crumb cake by 10 a.m. at his farmer's market booth.

He said they have been building up a market clientèle for two years. Another baked-goods vendor, Sweet Pickle Bakery and Deli of Kannapolis, also advertises at the market.

T&D Farms of China Grove offered local farm-raised chicken, pork and various cuts of beef, including brisket, London broil and T-bone steaks. Audrey Swayney, farm owner Todd Mauldin's aunt, was singing the praises of local beef.

"It's all grass-fed. They get no grain whatsoever. Everything is raised on his farm," she said, handing out advertising fliers.

Seven years ago at the market, vendor Darryl Mall started out small, selling kitchen pot racks and hooks fashioned from copper. Now he displays hammered silver and copper jewelry and yard art, and his expanding business is registered as Darryl's Copper Workshop LLC.

During the recession, vendors like Lisa Bundrick of Kannapolis look to the market for needed revenue, as well as advertising.

After 26 years as a respiratory therapist, she lost her job. Using a sewing machine her parents bought for her, she started something that can only be called a doggy fashion boutique.

She advertises "Katy's Doggy Fashions" (named for her granddaughter) with free business cards printed from an online site. She draws in sweaty customers the old-fashioned way: with a giant glass jug of cold lemonade, selling for $2 a glass.

While sipping in the shade of her booth, curiosity seekers can't help but admire her Duke Blue Devil doggie diapers and cute-as-a-bug Ladybug doggie bandanas.

Standing across from a man selling live blue crabs, she was asked about her advertising strategy.

She smiled, looked around her booth and proclaimed, "This is it!"