MIDLOTHIAN—Farmers’ markets connect communities with fresh produce, locally made foods, and artisan goods, and they provide opportunities to mingle.
It’s something to celebrate during this year’s National Farmers’ Market Week, held August 7-13.
“We continue to see shoppers using the markets to buy their fresh produce, protein, fruit and vegetables, especially as we have ever-increasing prices at the grocery store,” said Kim Hutchinson, executive director of Virginia Farmers Market Association. “People want to support the locals, and we’re excited to see them continue.”
Vendor presence also remains steady, Hutchinson said. While inflation and high gas prices have caused some regular vendors to reduce the number of markets they attend, Hutchinson has seen an increase in new farmers setting up stands. Many are people who started small farms during the COVID-19 pandemic and started selling their extra produce.
“We’re seeing new local growers – small start-up farms incubating their business in the marketplace, so it’s really exciting,” she said.
Farmers’ markets remain a favorite weekend pastime for many families, said John Montgomery, who co-operates the Dorey Park Farmers’ Market in Henrico County with his wife, Cappie. Unless picked directly from the field, they give consumers farm-to-table access to local produce while directly supporting farmers and their community’s economy.
“It’s a destination,” he said. “Our market has grown every year, but this year we had the highest footfall so far.”
They can also provide an important connection to those who may not have much access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and allow dollars to stretch further, he said. Dorey Park Farmers Market averages about 35 vendors and, like many farmers’ markets in Virginia, participates in financial assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and SNAP Match through VFMA’s Virginia Fresh Match program .
“For every dollar a SNAP participant spends at the Farmer’s Market, the Virginia Fresh Match Fund provides a matching dollar that can be spent on produce,” he explained.
The Montgomerys also launched a new program for the Dorey Park Farmer’s Market. Raising funds from local businesses, the Little SNAPs program provides participants with additional funds to purchase healthy food for their children.
“They’ll get an extra $10 per child, up to $20, to spend at the farmer’s market,” he added. “It’s a win-win.”
To find a farmer’s market near you, visit vdacs.virginia.gov/vagrown or vafma.org/virginia-markets. For fun day trip ideas to agritourism attractions related to farmers markets, check out the Virginia is for Farmers Market Lovers Trail at lovevamarkets.org.