Bringing Back the Town Square: Farmers Markets

May 31, 2015

Farmers markets in this country are growing. New ones are springing up all over Virginia.  These community markets are morphing into more than just places to buy fresh local produce.  They’re becoming places to hang out, eat, drink, shop, and more.

Ten  years ago, there were around 80 farmers markets operating in all of Virginia.  Today it’s 3 times that.

“Now we’ve got between 200 and 250. I say between 5: because the numbers keep changing, new markets are coming on.”

Elaine Lidholm of the Virginia Department of Agriculture says, these days, markets are getting creative.  They’re filling more than just people’s vegetable bins and freezers. They’re offering cooking classes, and programs highlighting healthy eating and they're meeting a cornucopia of needs in the community.

“Including the social one because we’re finding that farmers markets are becoming the gathering spot, the outdoor water cooler if you will.”

“ I wanted to tell you that last time we were here and I bought your vegetable seasoning, I roasted some broccoli and carrots and some Vidalia onions and that seasoning was excellent.”

Maryann Walker moved to this mountainous region of Giles County 37 years.  She’s known among her neighbors and friends as an amazing cook. She was thrilled when a new farmer’s market opened a few   weeks ago in Pearisburg.

“I’ve been here every day since they started. Every single one and it’s been great.”

Cathy Anderson’s booth is called Nanny’s Garden.  “I do vinegar, seasonings, can goods baked goods plants.”

She loves the lifestyle farmers markets offer their vendors.

“It gives people a chance to work for themselves. If they can’t find a job they can always do something like this to make money. And I’m my own boss.”

We’ve got stuffed portabella and ginger beer comes to $11.48

“We change our menu every week," says Kate Dinger, a local chef. “It depends on the theme of the farmer’s market.”

They prepare fresh meals, mostly with food from the venders here at the farmers market and wine from a local vintner selected to complement each week’s menu.

“Say for instance where we have Cajun pork and cheese flat bread, Reliant Farm is where we purchase our pork from which is also a vender here so we’ll do something like that where it’s in parentheses and we have green market for our kale and our spinach for our turkey flatbread and our stuffed portabella.

They have has a sparkling new professional sized grill, a Panini press, prep table and warming boxes.  They came from a 2-year, $99,000 dollar grant from the US department of agriculture. That funding will help launch an indoor version this winter.Eight workshops will be held in Pearisburg on Virginia Department of Agriculture and Department of Health rules and regulations, food safety branding, pricing and more. 

And part of that went to hiring Haley Warner as Pearisburg’s Market manager.  

“So part of that is getting this market going for the next two years and then we hope to eventually keep growing it. People can sit out here listen to music, shop a little bit, drink a little bit, so it’s nice.”

Every third Thursday, there’ll be live music here at the center of town. And there’s the hope that the market and attendance will grow along with the idea of what today’s farmers markets are. 

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