Virginia farmers markets are feeling the love thanks to a new campaign to help spread the word about National Farmers Market Week.
The state’s well-known motto, “Virginia is for Lovers,” was been amended temporarily to “Virginia is for Farmers Market Lovers,” to mark the national observance, Aug. 4-10.
Buying produce often picked less than 24 hours before it’s sold should be reason enough to shop at one of Virginia’s 276 farmers markets. But the markets also help local growers stay in business; most farmers receive only 15.6 cents for each food dollar spent at a typical grocery store. At farmers markets, growers receive the whole dollar.
Farmers markets also are a way for new producers to get into the business. They can start small, sell at a local market and scale up as demand for their product grows.
“Increasing access to fresh, healthy food and experiencing the unique opportunity to engage with the hard-working people who make that food available is the essence of why we observe Farmers Market Week in Virginia,” noted Molly Harris, a project manager for the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability.
VA FAIRS is an affiliate of Virginia Farm Bureau.
Some farmers markets, like the one in downtown Roanoke, are historical landmarks that have become irreplaceable parts of the community. History buffs also can take in the Alexandria Farmers Market. George Washington once sold his produce there, according to Elaine Lidholm, communications director for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
As the farm-to-table movement has grown, so has the number of farmers markets in Virginia. A recent proclamation from Gov. Ralph Northam noted that the number of farmers markets has grown 212% since 2006. To find a farmers market near you, visit vafb.com/News-Features/Farmers-Markets
. The Virginia Grown website also has a directory, at virginiagrown.com
While many farmers’ markets open each spring and have a schedule that runs until sometime in the fall, an increasing number of Virginia markets operate year-round. The number of year-round markets in the state has nearly tripled since 2010.
Your Farm Bureau membership helps the organization support the work of farmers who sell at local and regional markets. Farm Bureau is involved in educational and networking events for those producers, and VA FAIRS provides assistance with strategic planning, grant applications, feasibility studies and business plan development for rural agricultural enterprises. The foundation also markets a software product for operating online farmers’ markets and food hubs.