ALLENDALE—Allendale residents who take part in a gardening program run by the Franciscan Center on St. Helena Island may soon have a market where they can sell their produce.
The center held a meeting for representatives from area organizations to plan a farmer’s market in downtown Allendale by May 1, according to Kathryn Schlaudecker, a Franciscan Center volunteer.
The market will feature fruits and vegetables grown in the Market Garden Project, which started in 2007.
Franciscan Sisters Sheila Byrne and Stella Breen run the center, which offers outreach to people in need in Beaufort County. They started work in Allendale County in 2007 after receiving a grant from the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina. The area has some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the state.
The market gardens, funded by other Sisters of Charity grants, bring low-income individuals and families together to tend the plots in their communities. Currently the Dale Apartments and the Sugar Hill-Flat Street neighborhood have gardens.
Some of the participants sold produce at an earlier incarnation of the Allendale Farmer’s Market, but it was discontinued.
The new market will be set up in a former video store on Bay Street in downtown Allendale, said Anne Rice, who works at the Salkehatchie Leadership Institute. It is one of the organizations working on the project. Another partner, Christ Central Ministries, a nonprofit organization that works with the poor in South Carolina, recently purchased the building.
“We want the people who are involved with the market gardens to have a place to sell their produce, to become self-sustaining and not have to rely on other people’s money,” Schlaudecker said by phone.
Rice said the S.C. Department of Agriculture has agreed to donate a produce stand so items can be sold indoors and outdoors.
“I think we’re finally going to get everything we’re doing in Allendale tied together,” Sister Sheila said. “Just the fact that we’ve brought the people of Allendale together to work on something like this is awesome.”
New gardening projects are being developed by members of the community, Schlaudecker said. Christ Central has offered another piece of land to demonstrate the spin-gardening system, which yields a high-productivity garden in a small space.
Blueberries have been one of the most successful crops at the Dale Apartments site, though an effort to plant pomegranate trees failed because of cold temperatures.
Schlaudecker said a local farmer has volunteered to work with the Dale gardeners on cultivating other types of fruit.
The prospect of a market is exciting for Lottie Lewis, who chairs the Sugar Hill-Flat Street Community Association and volunteers at the market garden with her husband.
She said no produce from the Flat Street plot has been sold yet. Instead, gardeners use the fruits and vegetables themselves or share with community members.
“It’s been such a blessing to the people in our area, especially for the elderly who are dealing with this economy,” she said. “The garden has been a God-send, and we are just so appreciative of the sisters for sponsoring it. Who would have thought this little garden would have caused so many positive things here in Allendale? The people in our neighborhood just love it. They can’t believe it’s in their neighborhood.”