Commonwealth celebrates Virginia’s farm markets

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has declared that this week is  “Virginia Farmers’ Market Week.”

“When working to address local hunger and nutrition problems, Virginia farmers’ markets are a great resource,” Basil Gooden, state Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, noted in a news release. “You’ll find them in every part of the state, both rural and urban, offering a direct source of fresh, wholesome foods and an opportunity to connect with those responsible for growing it.”

The number of farm markets in Virginia has almost tripled in the last 10 years, growing from 88 in 2006 to 250 in 2017. The data also shows that more than 3,500 Virginia farmers sell directly to consumers. According to Tom Bullock, co-owner of Mowery Orchard in Woodstock, it’s because people are becoming more aware of what they’re eating. He also explained that buying from farm markets helps the local economy.

“People are getting more health conscious and everyone wants to know where their food is coming from,” Bullock said. “They want to talk to the people that grow it. That, and it helps the local economy so much, everybody wants the homeboys to do better.”

Holly Dillender, one of the owners of the family owned Woodbine Farm Market in Strasburg, echoed Bullock’s food awareness sentiment.

“A lot of it has to do with the public’s awareness of where their food is coming from,” Dillender said. “They are really interested in buying local, buying food that’s grown right in their area, and it’s also been good for the growers to market their own produce in the area where they grow it.”

Along with Farm Market Week, the Virginia Food Access Network has posted data showing farm markets that participate in federal nutrition programs.

“Virginia’s farmers’ markets play an essential role in making fresh, local produce available to all members of their communities, including those who struggle with food insecurity,” stated First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe in a news release from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “By expanding farmers’ market resources on the Virginia Food Access Network, we are helping to facilitate collaboration across Virginia’s food system so that markets can better serve our neighbors in need.”

The rise in the number of Virginia farm markets hasn’t just been good for the consumer, of course it’s also been good for the local farmer.

“It really does showcase and highlight the hard work that we put into growing the very best produce we can,” Dillender said. “For a long time, the farm markets and growers haven’t had the spotlight put on them, so I think this is really going to help the whole public be aware that these farm markets are available and most are fairly close in your area so you can buy great produce.”

The VDACS maintains a list of Virginia farmers’ markets on VirginiaGrown.com. Users can search by county, ZIP code or product.