What’s new at your community’s farmers’ market?

It’s farmers’ market season, and judging from the reported crowds out at Virginia’s markets the first weekend in May, it’s been a long winter for many of us. We’re eager to get back out there, reusable grocery totes in hand.

Thank you farmers’ market managers. Efforts to build and sustain a vibrant market can create a center for community as well as an outlet for local farmers. But it does take a lot of planning, work, and coordination.

As the season gears back up, Ten Principles for a Successful Farmers’ Market, an online resource developed by the Farmers’ Market Federation of New York is a quick review of basic practices for both emerging and longstanding markets. Is the vendor pricing structure right? Is there a mission statement for the market? What audience is the marketing plan aimed at? Are there community organizations that haven’t yet gotten involved with the farmers’ market and who might just be a natural fit?

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Virginia Grown program maintains a number of resources that can be enlisted to support your local market, including a public list of local farmers’ markets, a consumer’s chart of availability of Virginia produce, recipes, and resources for teachers and students.

Many of these tools can be put to use, creating an educational component or engaging shoppers in the food around them. 4-H or scouts might want to set up an educational display, or a women’s club might want to offer free recipes that incorporate the produce. The character of each market is created from the community and vendors who use it, and the opportunities are boundless.

This summer, submit your tips for farmers’ market tips for creating community energy by sending them to: douglas.jackson@dhcd.virginia.gov. We’ll share your story with other communities throughout the summer.