Taking the Country Roads Thru Camden
Soda City Market has that vibrant country-come-to-town vibe. The smells, bustle, hues and chatter are a Saturday stimulation. But there is something about venturing to the rustic rural sources for edibles that is food for the soul.
When I can, I head down Interstate 20 to Camden’s Exit 98. Take a left and ignore the evidence of modernity near the highway. Slow down, because on Saturdays the Kershaw County Farmers’ Market is situated in a field on one of the South’s oldest historic sites, where Lord Charles Cornwallis himself took residence in a patriot’s home and then coordinated a major Revolutionary War battle from there.
In the past year, the market has grown exponentially, according to Market Manager Samantha Brillinger. She says some Saturdays, from 8am to noon, up to 50 vendors are present.
With an outdoor museum in sight, where the British encamped during the town’s occupation in 1780, a greater charm and traditional ambiance pervades the market, points out Brillinger. Vendors are there presenting everything from meticulously crafted cutting boards to essential oils to aromatic soaps. Distinct bouquets of fresh-picked flowers are arranged, and a cornucopia of colorful produce—much of which is selected straight from a nearby, fragrant field or pastoral patch and brought directly to the market—is on display.
Brillinger encourages not just Camden residents, but those in the greater Columbia metropolitan area to visit the market for a day’s outing—rain or shine. There is the museum, as well as historic Camden, which is replete with antique and thrift stores, garden centers and a welcoming independent book shop/coffee bar.
A hop, skip and a jump from the market is Old McCaskill’s Farm.
Kathy McCaskill, who is likely to rise up out of the vegetable patch or appear with a lamb under one arm, exhibits blankets, made with some of the wool from her farm’s sheep, in the farm’s store, as well as farm-raised meats such as lamb, pork, beef, goat and chicken. Old McCaskill is a Certified South Carolina farm.
Also in the farm’s store, (which is open Thursdays 2–6pm, Fridays 11:30am–6pm, and some Saturdays) there are wool yarns and materials for knitting, crocheting and felting, as well as goat cheese, “real” butter, local honey, rice, grits, hormone-free milk, jams, jellies, pickles, relishes and meals and dips prepared by McCaskill’s daughter, Ashley, who also hosts a Friday farm-to-table, buffet-style lunch beginning at 11:30am (no reservations—first come, first served). Plus, there are canning supplies and the farm periodically offers canning classes.
McCaskill, who lives and breathes farm life, also presents the fruits of her labor at the Kershaw County Farmers’ Market and is more than happy to share stories about new farm animal arrivals and other happenings on the farm.
Visitors to Old McCaskill’s can walk around and see the animals or just chill under a shade tree and enjoy the peace and quiet. In the fall, McCaskill grows a pumpkin patch and sells some pumpkins at the market and sometimes at the farm. There are farm days and activities throughout the year in which to participate. And, a few years ago, part of Old McCaskill’s Farm became an affordable bed and breakfast.
Here is a fork-in-the-road suggestion:
- enjoy the amazing, all-you-can-eat Friday lunch, shop in Camden,
- stay at the B&B and get pampered with a hearty and healthy farm-to-table breakfast,
- visit the Saturday Market and
- then enjoy the historic living-history museum.
This complete and well-rounded, close-to-home, 36-hour bucolic getaway promises to revive.
For another little excursion, just 20 minutes down the road from Camden is Dorr Farms.
Marie Dorr also exhibits at the Kershaw County Farmers’ Market on Saturdays. She brings honey, produce, and—when in season—her strawberries, blackberries and blueberries. However, for a true farm experience, she welcomes anyone Monday through Saturday who wants to visit her 10-plus acres to hand pick ripe berries. She also sells fresh produce at her farm. In the fall, she has a pumpkin patch and offers fresh pumpkins for sale. Dorr asks that guests call ahead for the pumpkins as the fall brings many school groups to the farm.
Dorr and her husband, Maynard, bought the farm land so that they could offer to others the wholesome experience of knowing where edibles come from. “I absolutely love growing and I want others to enjoy these fresh items as well. Plus, having this farm and taking produce to the market allows me to get to meet so many new people,” she says.