Organizers see union as way to promote local products
By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- A long-running farmers market joins a local nursery next month and organizers say the match fits.
The Woodstock Farmers Market, moving from its former site at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds to Fort Valley Nursery, 1175 S. Hisey Ave., opens April 7.
"We just think it will make a great pairing, with his nursery business and he is always promoting local products," said organizer Shelley Long, now in her 17th year with the market.
Nursery co-owner and retail manager Terry Fogle says he sees the pairing as a "symbiotic" relationship between the two enterprises.
"We think it's going to be a wonderful combination for any number of reasons," Fogle said, noting that he hopes the market can make the nursery its permanent home.
The business owner explained that the market could benefit from the heavy customer traffic the nursery sees each Saturday. The nursery, in turn, could attract business from the long-running market's loyal patrons, Fogle added.
While the market remains small by some standards, Long noted it has a faithful following.
"It's well supported and it grows every year and we try to let people know what's available locally so that they can get the freshest whatever it is," Long said.
The market has approximately 10-12 vendors.
"This is a commitment," Long said. "That's a hard thing for people to understand but when you commit to a farmers market you have to plan ahead of course and make sure you're prepared. You plant your garden in the hopes you're going to sell quite a bit this summer."
Vendors and organizers start planning for the market in February, according to Long.
Market vendors usually pick the produce the day before and sometimes that morning, according to Long.
"So you certainly can't get any fresher than that," Long said.
Like many of the vendors, Long said she and her husband spend most of the day before the market preparing their produce -- picking, washing, sorting and weighing.
Markets continue to grow more popular with people looking not only for local products but also organic produce and meats. Long noted the Woodstock Market attracts these kinds of shoppers.
"The nice thing about a farmers market is that they also get to know the farmer," Long said. "They get to know who actually grew the vegetables, who raised the animals and I always encourage my vendors to let people know about that."
Vendors often display photographs of the produce and animals from their farms, according to Long, who also runs Jadwyn Farms. Lynn Santclair grows berries on a farm outside town and offers self-picking which she advertises at the market, Long said. Santclair also has worked at the market with Long for 17 years.
The market operates from 8 a.m. to noon each Saturday from April 7 through October, rain or shine, in a covered, outdoor area at the nursery. The canopy means vendors and shoppers can come to the market without worry about the weather, Long said.
The farmers market would try incorporate the sale of local produce and meats with the nursery's indoor cafe, Long explained. Organizers also are planning to host occasional events such as live music and demonstrations put on by master gardeners. The gardeners could answer questions about growing produce, how to rid gardens of pests and give other advice to vendors and shoppers, she explained.
The nursery hopes to make the market more of a weekly event beyond a regular place for people to shop, according to Fogle.
Information on the market and the nursery can be found on their respective Facebook pages.