Expand farmers markets.
In 2005, there were only 34 West Virginia farmers markets. Now there are more than 120, operating at more than 140 locations, including satellite markets, according to the W.Va. Farmers Market Association. Thousands of people can get fresh produce who could not get it before.
Farmers markets take many forms. They can be farmers making extra money selling from tables and truckbeds. On the other end of the scale, they can be large pavilion-and-stall markets, open seven days a week in season.
“A farmers market improves the attractiveness of the town to new businesses and residents,” said Kelly Crane, past director of the Association. “It says the community is concerned with health.”
The Association put together a variety of manuals and how-to resources, including “So You Want to Start a Farmers Market.” http://wvfarmers.org/tools-2/resources and a “Farmers Market Planning Toolkit.”
It can take a few years, but established markets make money. Phillipi’s market, open four days a week, raised more than $23,000 for 98 growers in 2010. Morgantown’s one-day-a-week market averages more than $11,600 per month, and offers cooking classes, yoga and other attractions. and https://www.facebook.com/MorgantownFarmersMarket
A caution: If you want to set up a market and your community already has one, collaborate. If you can’t join forces, offer fresh food in different locations on different days. Contact the Farmers Market Association for advice.
Want to start or expand a farmers market? Learn from other communities:
Click on the titles:
- The West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition promotes farmers markets, farm to school, community gardens, local food distribution systems and other aspects of West Virginia-grown food. Keep checking their Web site for updates on resources, grants and news.
- The West Virginia Farmers Market Association has great resources for people at all stages of farmers marketdom. You don’t want to miss this page.
- West Virginia Buyer-Grower Directories: The Resource page of the Food and Farm Coalition includes handy directories of buyers and growers in several areas of the state – along with many other valuable resources. Look at it!
- The West Virginia Small Farm Center created some valuable resources for people who want to sell at a farmers market. Their tools and newsletter are well worth exploring.
- Here’s a 2013 list of West Virginia farmers markets: http://wvfarmers.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/2013-Farmers-Market-Census-PDF-for-Website.pdf . Roane County has eight farmers markets in four locations.
- National Farmers Market Coalition. The Web site of this national group is filled with useful information and ideas.
- The USDA Local Food Research and Development site is packed with useful information.
- The WV Farmers Market Assn facebook page helps you keep up on what’s happening in WV.
- Short videos of WV farmers markets, produced by the Farm and Food Coalition, lets you see different kinds of markets: Here is a sample video:
- At Charleston’s six-day-a-week Capitol Market, farmers sell from sheltered outdoor stalls, sharing space with a restaurant and year-round indoor food vendors
- The Monroe County online farm market lets buyers choose foods online and the market delivers to dropoff sites in multiple counties. http://vimeo.com/channels/can/29122433 , http://monroefarmmarket.locallygrown.net
- In the low-tech truckbed-and-table model, growers sell from vehicles or small stands. Most West Virginia markets use this model.
Mobile markets – farmers markets on wheels – are a great answer to the problem of getting fresh food to low-population food deserts. Wheeling, Morgantown, and Roane County, among others, already have mobile markets that tour the county on a scheduled basis.
Here’s a handy “Try Something New” video from Food and Farm. Great for workshops. https://vimeo.com/19446034
And here’s the Vendors’ Guide from the state. It lists regulations and rules for different kinds of products.
Want to make your farmers market available to more people?
- Make sure SNAP (food stamp) recipients can use their cards to buy at your farmers market. Your farmers market must sign up with the state Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.wvdhhr.org/ebt/farmersmarket.html.
- Double the amount people in your area can buy with their SNAP dollars: http://www.wvfreshealthybucks.com/#_markets
- Help Seniors stretch dollars. Seniors can get coupons through their Senior Center that help them buy produce at the farmers market. This is the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. More Seniors will use them if the coupons are handed out at the market, rather than the Senior Center, advocates say. http://www.fns.usda.gov/sfmnp
The Morgan County farmers market solicited funds from businesses and other donors and created a Dollar for Dollar program that lets low-income people buy twice as much with their dollars at the farmers market.
A coupon program is available for WIC recipients that allows them to buy WIC-approved foods at the farmers market. For more information, see: http://ons.wvdhhr.org/FarmersMarket/FarmersMarketProgram/tabid/1176/Default.aspx
See if your health department will waive food handling and permitting fees for those who participate in farmers markets. Here’s the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department policy: http://ctfwvresources.com/docs/MOV%20BOH%20fee%20waivers%20for%20farmers%20markets.pdf
Ideas! Expand your offerings … hook up with other programs:
- Offer cooking classes. In Morgantown, at the farmers market pavilion, organizers are putting together a Healthy Eating program, featuring a culinary station that will give cooking demos every week and hand out recipe cards.
- Create a farmers’ market kids’ club: In warm weather, the Bridgeport Farmers Market offers a children’s POP (Power of Produce) program every week. They give each child a $2 token to spend at the market. The program has been wildly popular. Here’s a link to the original POP club in Oregon.
- Invite local healthy lifestyle teachers to teach classes or give demos at the market: Morgantown has featured Pilates instructors, belly dancing teacher, zumba.
- Include health care services with farmers market: Shepherdstown’s Morgans Grove Market future plans include a sheltered market at the same site as a variety of health care services and a food distribution system. https://www.facebook.com/morgansgrovemarket
- Hold community events at the farmer’s market. The Buckhannon-Upshur Farmers Market is located in a park community volunteers built. The community schedules weekly music events, chili cook-offs, family picnics and other events at the market/park.
- Teach food preservation. Ask West Virginia Extension Service agents to put on canning demonstrations or classes, using market produce. You may need a separate location for canning.
- Hold Master Gardener classes or demonstrations. The Morgantown market does it. Contact your WVU Extension agent.
- Build a high tunnel greenhouse to feed and fund your farmers market: In Williamson, Southern Community College students helped build and tend a greenhouse that generates food and funds for the community farmers market.
- Encourage beekeepers to take part. Find more info from the West Virginia Beekeepers’ Association:
- Pop-up dinners. When it looks like a lot of produce will be left over at the Williamson market or community garden, organizers sometimes create a pop-up dinner. They cook the produce into something delicious, advertise it by social media, then serve to all.
Have special events that benefit the food pantry or feeding program. In Charleston, for example, one day each summer at the Farmers Market is “Buy green beans for Manna Meal” day. People donate green beans, and volunteers string them for freezing.
- Here are some farmers market recipes
- from Michigan Extension Service http://mifma.org/recipes/
- The West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition has put all their great resources on growing, vending and marketing into one place! Here it is!
- Here is the state’s Farmers Market Vendor Guide: https://www.wvdhhr.org/phs/food/Farmers%20Market%20Brochure.pdf
- Value Chain Cluster Initiative: Free business consulting for 17 eligible counties: http://www.conservationfund.org/what-we-do/natural-capital-investment-fund
Newspaper story: “Local foods movement in West Virginia has been called “a model for Appalachia:'” http://news.yahoo.com/w-va-local-food-movement-170922911.html