New Farmers Market won't open until June

The opening of the new State Farmers Market is being pushed back to June because of weather delays, according to the S.C. Department of Agriculture.

That means there will be a four-month gap between the time the University of South Carolina will require vendors to vacate the current market on Bluff Road and when they can relocate to the new Lexington County facility.

Recent rains made it impossible to pour footings for the buildings intended to accommodate the smaller vendors, said department spokeswoman Becky Walton.

Large wholesale vendors are building their own facilities.

Construction of the department's new laboratory and farmer sheds began earlier than construction for the rest of the market, so those should be completed on schedule, Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers said.

"While this is a small bump in the road, the new market is on target for occupancy by the peak season for fresh South Carolina-grown produce," Weathers said in a statement.

The new market's grand opening was scheduled for April during the Midlands Spring Plant and Flower Festival.

The festival now will be held April 15-18 in the watermelon shed at the current market on Bluff Road.

In late November, the market's private developer, George Lee, said the project was "relatively" on schedule for an April 17 opening.

The new market will be much different from the old one. Located between U.S. 321 and I-26 near Dixiana, the $85 million market will be 2 1/2 times as large as the old market. By comparison, it's the size of seven Walmart Supercenters combined.

In addition to the usual wholesale facilities, farmers' sheds and retail and greenhouse areas, the market will boast:

- A 400-seat amphitheater

- A 200-seat conference center

- A demonstration kitchen

- A large event sign and RV park to draw people off the interstate

- A fishmonger, meat market and restaurant

The developers also are building a series of storefronts and stalls called The Porches and The Stables that will rent for about the same price as stalls at the old Farmers Market.

The state also is building $5.5 million in farmers' stalls, a produce shed and additional offices to feature S.C. products and promote the department's "Certified South Carolina Grown" campaign.