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,” will be amended temporarily to “Virginia is for Farmers Market Lovers,” during this year’s National Farmers Market Week, Aug. 4 to 10.
Being able to buy produce that’s 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.
“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,” said Molly Harris, a project manager for the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability.
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.
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.
Warrenton has two markets – one that is open Saturday mornings at the corner of Fifth and Lee streets and the other on Wednesday afternoons at the WARF.
As the farm-to-table movement has grown, so has the number of farmers markets in Virginia. A recent proclamation from Gov. Ralph Northam said that the number of farmers markets has grown 212 percent since 2006. To find a farmers market in Virginia near you, visit vafb.com/News-Features/Farmers-Markets.
“The first week in August is perfect for celebrating the bounty of the summer season and supporting independently owned family businesses,” Harris noted. “It is in this celebration that we are turning occasional farmers market drop-ins into reliable market regulars and making a significant economic impact on our rural communities.”