A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

South Carolina might be known for its peaches, but there is so much more fresh, flavorful food grown and produced in the Palmetto State. Aiken is home to a crop

Madison County Championship Rodeo

South Carolina might be known for its peaches, but there is so much more fresh, flavorful food grown and produced in the Palmetto State. Aiken is home to a crop

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

South Carolina might be known for its peaches, but there is so much more fresh, flavorful food grown and produced in the Palmetto State. Aiken is home to a crop

Take a Bite Out of Aiken

South Carolina might be known for its peaches, but there is so much more fresh, flavorful food grown and produced in the Palmetto State. Aiken is home to a crop of amazing farmers, beekeepers, bakers, and artisan food producers who want to help you get your fill of all of the delicious bounty that the Southern city has to offer.

 

Start at the Farmers Market

On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings, the Aiken County Farmers Market fills with up to 50 vendors selling just-picked produce, pastured meat, eggs, honey, fresh flowers, and other artisan foods. 

The market, located on the site of the former Aiken Cotton Platform and Scale, has been operating since the 1920s. It started off as a spot where farmers sold cotton, produce, and other homemade goods from wagons parked beneath the trees. A decade later, members of the Aiken County Council of Farm Women sold flowers and bulbs to help fund local beautification projects.

A century after it was first established, the Aiken County Farmers Market remains a hub for local farmers and foodies — the vendors still set up on handmade tables that have been used in the market for generations. The Aiken County Farmers Market has also earned the distinction of being the oldest farmers market in the same location in the nation and was designated as a local landmark to ensure it would be preserved for the future.



Grab baked goods and coffee from Le Frenchian and Got Cake — think pound cakes and tomato pies made with perfect, ripe tomatoes — to help fuel your shopping trip. Take in the colorful produce displays and stock up on staples like tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, and, of course, peaches, from vendors like Stevens Produce, and shop for unique ingredients like greens from NKBJ Microgreens; honey, beeswax, and herbal soaps and teas from Promised Land Bee Farm; eggs and produce from Oakwind Farms and Ramey Farm; and pastured meat from Misty Morning Farms. The market is even a great spot to shop for gifts: Artisans like Karen Raine of KD Soapworks sell handmade, small batch bath and body products at the market.

 

Tour Local Farms

Several Aiken farmers throw open their gates and welcome visitors to experience life on a working farm. Farmers market vendor Samaria Farm and Dairy offers tours of their family farm (for a fee; reservations required) that include introductions to their herd of Jersey cows and Nubian goats as well as their chickens and pigs. During the two-hour tours, farmer Sam Stevens invites visitors to sample raw milk and hosts blind tastings to see who can tell the difference between goat and cow milk. The on-site farm store is also chock full of fresh food, including pastured meats, eggs, raw milk, goat milk fudge, homemade bread, and handmade soaps.

Get your hands dirty at you-pick farms like Herb n Berries U-Pick Blueberry Farm. You’ll find nine different varieties of blueberries as well as thornless blackberries available for picking from May through July (weather permitting). The on-site farm stand also stocks pre-picked vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.

 

Attend Agricultural Events

The Aiken County Farmers Market hosts several popular events throughout the growing season, providing a host of opportunities to celebrate agriculture in Aiken.

Events kick off at the farmers market in mid-April with the Spring Kick Off, when seasonal vendors return to the market with the first fresh produce harvests of the spring. In June, Market in the Alley runs on Thursday evenings and features some of the most popular vendors from the farmers market selling locally-grown produce alongside artisan products such as pottery, jewelry, soaps, and local art.

The Aiken County Farmers Market. photograph by City of Aiken

Fall Farm Fest is one of the most popular events the market hosts: Held one Saturday in October, the festival features popular fall produce — hello, pumpkins! — as well as educational and entertaining activities for children.

Agritourism also extends to the holidays. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, The Aiken County Farmers Market hosts Christmas Crafts at the Market. You can also meet the vendors who grow Christmas trees and greenery for wreaths.   

The SC Bluebird SocietyAiken Master Gardeners, and Clemson Extension often have informational booths at the farmers market during peak season to talk about their hands-on food, farming and nature events.

Aiken is proud of its rich agricultural heritage and the farmers market is a delicious spot to check out some of the best farms in the region.

This story was published on May 26, 2020

Jodi Helmer

Jodi Helmer

North Carolina-based journalist Jodi Helmer writes about food, farming, and the environment.