Farmers markets connect communities with fresh produce, locally made food and artisan goods and offer opportunities to mingle.
That’s something to celebrate during this year’s National Farmers Market Week Aug. 7-13.
“We are continuing to see shoppers using the markets to buy their fresh produce, their proteins, their fruits and vegetables, especially as we have ever-increasing prices at the grocery store,” said Kim Hutchinson, Virginia Farmers Market Association’s executive director. “Folks are wanting to support local, and we’re excited to see them continuing.”
Vendor presence is remaining steady too, Hutchinson said. While inflation and high gas prices have caused some regular vendors to cut back on the number of markets they attend, Hutchinson has seen an uptick in new farmers setting up booths. Many are people who began small homesteads during the COVID-19 pandemic and started selling their extra produce.
“We’re seeing some new local producers—small and beginning farms that are incubating their business at the market, so that’s been really exciting,” she said.
Farmers markets remain a favorite weekend pastime for many families, said John Montgomery, who co-manages Dorey Park Farmers Market in Henrico County with his wife, Cappie. Short of picking it straight from the field, they give consumers farm-to-table access to local produce while directly supporting their communities’s farmers and economy.
“It’s a destination,” he said. “Our market has grown every year, but this year we’ve seen the largest attendance so far.”
They also can provide an important connection to those who might not have much access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and allow dollars to stretch farther, he said. Dorey Park Farmers Market averages around 35 vendors and, like many Virginia farmers markets, participates in financial assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and SNAP Match through VFMA’s Virginia Fresh Match program.
“For every dollar a SNAP participant spends at the farmers market, the Virginia Fresh Match fund provides a matching dollar that can be spent on produce,” he explained.
The Montgomerys also began a new program for the Dorey Park Farmers Market. Raising money from local businesses, the Little SNAPs program offers participants extra funds to purchase healthy food for their children.
“They’ll receive an additional $10 per child, up to $20, to spend at the farmers market,” he added. “It’s a win-win.”
To find a farmers market near you, visit vdacs.virginia.gov/vagrown or vafma.org/virginia-markets. For fun day-trip ideas to agritourism attractions connected to farmers markets, check out the Virginia is for Farmers Market Lovers Trail at lovevamarkets.org.