Evolution of Johns Island Farmers Market

 

The Johns Island Farmers Market was launched on January 11, 2014. Frasier Block and Blue Laughters are the owners and operators of Johns Island Farmers Market, LLC. They have a passion for bringing people together in loving, local ways. With a knack for nature and love for the countryside, the idea for the Johns Island Farmers Market began in 2013 as the desire to connect local farmers and artisans with their communities. Frasier and Blue recognized people wanting to support local foods and goods, so they decided to create a peaceful place where it would be easy to make the connection between local supply and demand.
This market exists as an enriching place for local farmers, artisans, and entrepreneurs to display their passions to the public, and for the community to connect in ways otherwise not possible. Our mission is simple and transparent: Produce and products must be regionally grown, locally made, or hold a sustainable theme.
Frasier and Blue spent the last half of 2013 working on details, recruiting vendors, and other necessary footwork needed to run a weekly event. They decided to launch it in the winter, when all other markets close, and hold the belief that people should have access to local goods all year long.
Since its inception, JIFM has been a privately owned LLC business. The land on Maybank Highway where the market began was used for “free” under the mutual agreement that the owners of JIFM would enter into a rental agreement with the land owners during the first year if the market was to continue. With the warm reception of JIFM by the community, it was meant to be for Frasier and Blue to continue this loving journey. They enjoy organizing a forum to display what people are passionate about creating and giving access to that.
When JIFM once again approached the land owners to secure their business and sign a lease, they were refused a rental agreement on several occasions. They were told they could use the land for free monetarily. This sounded good at first… but this land was never truly free. On multiple occasions the land owners infringed on the Johns Island Farmers Market insisting how things should be run and expecting them to accommodate, trying to say what vendors could and could not come, and even giving other organizations permission to use the assets, times, and dates of JIFM without any discussion with the market owners. That was something found to be intolerable because this is a privately owned business and how people make a living.
There were also several occasions that the land owners asked other people to take over the operations of this privately owned business. It was around this time it became clear just how much was actually being paid for this “free” land. Knowing this was an extremely unstable location for the Johns Island Farmers Market, Frasier and Blue searched for new venues to be a safe, permanent home for the market. They even had a lawyer draft a lease per the land owner’s request. After months of waiting, the land owner wrote a letter refusing the professional lease, saying someone else was going to assume operations of the market. JIFM ran one time on Maybank not knowing the contents of this letter, and on this day there was not enough parking for patrons. JIFM had out grown this location in more ways than one. The behavior of the Maybank land owners, along with the need to protect the business they had worked hard to lovingly build were the reasons JIFM had to find a new location. The Johns Island Farmers Market was moved to the beautiful campus of Charleston Collegiate School at the beginning of 2017, its fourth year in operation. Charleston Collegiate School welcomed JIFM with open arms allowing them to immediately enter a professional business lease and pay rent for use of the campus. This location also provided much needed amenities for the market such as oak trees for beauty and shade, more parking, power, water, and potential for long term growth.
Throughout their 4 years of operation, Frasier and Blue upheld JIFM standards of honesty, local values, and simply doing the right thing; even if that meant going up against some firmly entrenched people within the Johns Island community. They have now built a team of amazing farmers and vendors, yet had to let others go that displayed toxic behaviors or did not respect the market morals or business operations. Specifically, a failure to sell “LOCAL” or “REGIONAL” produce, to clearly mark items as to where they came from with prices, and if they were non GMO, organic or not.
The JIFM now has a staff that helps run a peaceful place to shop from trustworthy local farmers and businesses, providing transparency for the customers about the quality of what they are buying. Everyone here believes in what JIFM stands for and respects the hard work that goes into creating it. We are proud to be a farmers market that truly cares about and regulates where the produce and other goods come from and offers the amazing opportunity to get to know the farmers and artisans behind it all.
Starting in 2014, JIFM, along with the Sea Islands Chamber of Commerce co-created the annual Homegrown Holiday Bazaar on the first Saturday of December each year. This event is designed to do holiday shopping from unique local businesses, enhance the local economy, and offer a fun filled festival day with numerous holiday themed activities and upwards of 100 vendors.
In the late summer of 2016, JIFM received a grant to help them promote and accept the SNAP/EBT program, offering recipients use of their SNAP money for foods market wide. This offers incentive to purchase healthier foods, something no other farmers market in the Charleston area offers.
Spade & Clover FarmJohns Island Farmers Market is truly a unique market to visit and make a part of your weekly experience. Not only can you get a large variety of groceries and gifts sourced locally and sustainably, there are also multiple food trucks and stands for breakfast or lunch, beverages, live local musicians, a kids play area, beautiful trees for shade, and a pavilion to relax under with ping pong, foosball and corn hole games. There is ample free parking on the school campus, and all family, friends, and pets are welcome to share and experience the joy here.
The goal of JIFM is to be an enriching place for all people to share in the passions of what local farmers, artisans, and food purveyors love to create while upholding the agricultural and rural history of this area.
Frasier, Blue, and the entire JIFM team are extremely grateful for the hard work and dedication of not only the farmers and vendors, but also to the patrons who have supported and believed in the evolution of this journey. This market is about gratitude, so thank you all.
In short, we actually care, a lot.