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Thousands of West Virginians supplement their incomes through farmers markets. Hundreds make a big chunk of their living there. They win, and the community wins with fresh local produce, often in areas that have limited access to fresh produce. Photo courtesy Bill Richardson, Mingo County Extension Service

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fm photo 3In 2005, there were only 34 West Virginia farmers markets. Now there are 91, operating at 110 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 president of the Association. “It says the community is concerned with health.”

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Calhoun County’s four regular farmers markets are scheduled on different days so they don’t compete.

The Association put together a how-to manual called “So You Want to Start a Farmers Market.”  http://wvfarmers.org/tools-2/resources and a “Farmers Market Planning Toolkit to help market managers make people aware of their market.”

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. http://www.morgantownfarmersmarket.org/ 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:

 

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Williamson’s one-day-a-week farmers market is one of more than 100 West Virginia farmers markets. Photo courtesy Bill Richardson

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:
    • West Virginia Buyer-Grower Directory, Huntington Area: This handy directory of buyers and growers in the Huntington area is the first such directory to be produced by the West Virginia Farm and Food Coalition.
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Farmers drop their produce off at the Belington market, and staff sells it for them

 

In the low-tech truckbed-and-table model, growers sell from vehicles or small stands. Most West Virginia markets use this model.

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The Mingo Wellness mobile market – a large van filled with produce – arrives in Matewan on a regularly-scheduled basis. (Photo courtesy Mingo Diabetes Association)

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.

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 ,  Pamela.A.Santone@wv.gov  (304) 558-0055
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    SNAP tokens let low-income people use their “food stamp” money at the farmers market.

  • 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:

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Some markets, like the Morgantown market, offer cooking demos.

  • 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 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.
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Some farmers markets have regular activities. Here’s an egg toss at the Shepherdstown market.

 

  • 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. For info, contact the Mingo County Diabetes Association: http://www.mingodiabetes.com/
  • Encourage beekeepers to take part: http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/201306240190
  • 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 comers,
    Bridgeport Farmers Mkt POP club 5

    The Bridgeport Farmers Market Power of Produce Club attracted 300 children in its first summer. The kids do fun activities with healthy food, then get $2 tokens they can spend to buy their own. (photo courtesy Debbie Workman.)

    Information? Contact Mingo County Diabetes Assn: http://www.mingodiabetes.com/

  • 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.

Useful resources:

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The Davis farmers market is scheduled for late Friday afternoon, when weekend visitors arrive.

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   Also see these pages: distribution systems, community gardens, high tunnels, healthy local food = economic development, healthy cooking classes

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