Connecting Small Regional Growers to Large Tourist, Retail and Wholesale markets on the SC Coast


In the third installment of our ongoing series highlighting this year’s food projects, CFSA’s Stephen Nix talked to Kimberly Busse of The Local Table (TLT) and Blake Lanford, Regional Lead Agent for Clemson Extension and organizer of the Waccamaw Market Cooperative (WMC).  By combining efforts, Kimberly and Blake are looking to expand access to local, healthy food, as well as increase opportunities for sustainable farmers in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee regions of South Carolina.


CFSA:  Tell us about Waccamaw Market Cooperative and The Local Table.  How did the ideas for the business come about and how are they related?


TLT and WMC: The WMC is an incorporated 501c3 nonprofit organization responsible for coordinating and managing community based farmer’s markets throughout Horry County.   The Local Table, LLC is an agricultural business that connects consumers to farmers by offering locally grown products through an Online Market System.  Both were started because we wanted to help our local growers get their products to more people throughout our community.


CFSA:  What were you doing when you realized this project was the next logical step?  In other words, how did you get to this point?


TLT and WMC: The Local Table had been working closely with WMC since its inception.  Throughout the first year, there were several instances where the marketing, advocacy, or training work ran parallel.   This past fall, The Local Table had reached a point where more investment was required to continue and grow.  At the same time, the WMC was exploring opportunities to grow its own programming.  The CFSA consulting project seemed to be the perfect opportunity to finally combine our efforts and capitalize on the growing interest in local food in our area.

Waccamaw Market Cooperative Farmers Market

Combining under the umbrella of the Waccamaw Market Cooperative, we will enhance supply, promote demand, and increase access to healthy local food in Horry and Georgetown Counties.  We will create one comprehensive local food organization for the Waccamaw Region of South Carolina with three big goals:

  1. Expansion of Existing Farmer’s Market Program   

There are currently over 50 participating members, both farmers and artisans, in the WMC and over 12 participating farmers within The Local Table.   The WMC will expand market opportunities into virtual market and mobile market programming and will recruit new growers for market participation.

 2.    Development of an Online Farmer’s Market and CSA Program 

The Local Table CSA Box

Current market facilities are in need of both expansion and renovation to support market activities including retail and wholesale distribution.  A  strong local food infrastructure and network will allow more small regional growers access to the large tourist and consumer driven retail and wholesale markets in Coastal South Carolina.  Building upon the online market experience of The Local Table, LLC, the WMC will develop a multi-leveled online market system.  The WMC will organize and train local growers for participation, and coordinate, aggregate, and distribute local food sold online in both retail and wholesale applications.                    

 3. Coordinate Events and Programs that Support the WMC Mission

The WMC has successfully accepted EBT payments for 6 years, but recognizes that transportation to market locations at market times can be an impediment to access for residents of low to moderate income areas.  The WMC will establish a mobile market program with online ordering capabilities that increases healthy food access in food desert communities.  The WMC will increase brand recognition, advocate for local food and local farm issues, and fundraise through community partnerships and participation in area events.


CFSA:  What about the Pee Dee/Grand Strand regions make them ideal locations to start local food businesses?


TLT and WMC: We are a hugely under-tapped market.  Horry County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state and the Myrtle Beach area hosts an estimated 15 million visitors each year.  Market data indicates $27.5 million in retail leakage in food categories for the three zip codes that comprise the Conway, SC primary trade area.  Recent studies conducted by Clemson identify the Pee Dee as a prime area for growth in agribusiness – especially businesses related to food production, processing and distribution that match existing production capacities with consumer populations in nearby urbanized areas. (i.e. Florence, Myrtle Beach, Wilmington etc.)

Many of the farmer’s market activities hosted by the Cooperative are dedicated to satisfying demand for local foods in dynamic tourist areas along the coast. Consumers exist all over the region, but the bulk of demand is driven by high growth areas dominated by tourism economics. This creates tremendous opportunity for growers in adjacent rural areas that make up the region. Unlike many of the other regions that make up SC in particular, the Pee Dee Region maintains significant production capacity within relatively close proximity to the consumer demand. The Cooperative helps to connect willing producers with consumers through its market program and local food advocacy efforts.


CFSA:  Why are you passionate about using local, sustainable foods as part of your business?  How do you plan to work with local farmers and artisans?


TLT and WMC: It has always been the mission of both The Local Table and the WMC to support local food and local farmers.  It’s the reason these organizations exist.

Kimberly Busse of The Local Table says, “A strong local food system is the key to a strong local community.  We can improve our local economy, by keeping our food dollars here at the beach and in the Pee Dee.  We can improve community health by promoting and increasing access to the fresh fruits and vegetables grown here.  And I believe we can strengthen our sense of community and our identity through a stronger connection to our unique local growers and producers. “


CFSA:  What are your goals for the Waccamaw Market Cooperative and The Local Table, and where do you see it in 5 years?  What can CFSA do to help you get there?


TLT and WMC: Primary goals include: 1) expansion of the existing farmers market network; 2) the creation of new direct market programs that expand access to local foods for underserved populations (mobile market); 3) the coordination of a web based CSA program (virtual market); and 4) collaborating with public and private partners on the development of food system infrastructure projects in the region, including, but not limited to, public farmers markets, food nodes/hubs, producer cooperatives and other innovative food distribution strategies. 

In 5 years, the Waccamaw Market Cooperative would like to a primary resource for food system producers, distributors and consumers in the region. CFSA can help the Cooperative develop a sustainable plan and can offer guidance with respect to similar work and projects in other parts of NC and SC.


CFSA:  In addition to your work, what are your thoughts on how we can grow local and organic foods in the Carolinas?


TLT and WMC: Growth of local and organic food in NC and SC will largely be dependent on work among numerous organizations to address needs in three main areas: production, distribution and consumption. No one agency can bear the burden for programs and projects that attempt to address issues in all three areas. We must work all three areas in tandem to ensure movement in the right direction. At the same time we are working with consumers to cultivate demand, we have to work with producers to give them the capacity to satisfy that demand. In addition we must work to bridge the gap between production and consumption by advocating for and actively pursuing the development of infrastructure projects and policies that result in greater distribution of local food products in our communities. There is no one formula or model that may be pursued on this course. Each community is unique and the solutions and strategies pursued within must be equally as unique.


waccamaw market cooperative


To learn more about Waccamaw Market Cooperative and their five market locations, visit  To keep up with the local food scene in the Grand Strand, visit The Local Table at


Meet the passionate people behind CFSA’s other Food Projects –