Changes coming to an Eastern Carolina farmers market but some aren’t on board

PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) – Leroy James Farmers Market is getting some much-needed upgrades, closing from January 2nd to February 29th for renovations.

But those updates are just one part of the changes on the way. For example, in December, the board that oversees the market decided it would no longer be year-round.

“The data and community comments were all taken into consideration and modifications for the first draft proposal, which was not a year-round market and every single Saturday, but hearing that, I think this was really compromise, sweet spot, where to land,” said Pitt County Manager, Janis Gallagher.

However, county leaders later decided the market would be open year-round, but it was cut from Fridays and Saturdays in 2023 to just Saturdays now.

Farmers Market Board Member Patricia Shegas says the board wasn’t part of that decision.

“It’s hurting the farmers and hurting the community and hurting the elderly people in the community because they come out on Fridays when they get their voucher for fresh produce they come to the farmers market,” said Shegas.

However, Pitt County Manager Janis Gallagher says after looking at the data, the reduced days seemed necessary due to a lack of vendors. “On a Friday over the past few years, I don’t know, our data hasn’t shown over six,” said Gallagher.

They also cut the number of vendors allowed from 31 to 28 in order to make the space more ADA-compliant and allow more room to browse the produce.

Shegas says she’s mainly concerned about the impact this will have on small businesses.

“Just like everybody else, they’re taking away our livelihood, I am a small business. My business is Patty Cakes, and I’ve been in business for ten years. This is the only place that I sell my products, and I’m losing money,” said Shegas.

While the main market is closed for renovations, a temporary market is up at the Pitt County Council on Aging every Saturday until February so vendors can still make sales. The market is expected to re-open in March.

The vendor application for the 2024 season is now open now on the Leroy James Farmers Market and can be found on their website.