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Farmers Markets – People Want MORE!

June 29, 2012

What makes a great farmers market? What will work for the farmers? How can the market attract more consumers?

European cities have used the market system for centuries and only in the past 25 years have more supermarkets been introduced and expanded. Many older kitchen spaces in Europe still only provide refrigerators that are similar to what we send to college with our kids. So, reduced cold storage requires shopping for fresh foods often. Markets are available throughout the city.

A visit to Paris in December a few years ago included several fresh markets and it was then I became convinced that West Virginia grocery stores were at the bottom of the food distribution chain. I came back and went to our BEST local supermarket and was appalled to see wilted and brown lettuce, moldy potatoes, and green tomatoes. Look at what was available in Paris at the same time!

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Okay, so you think this is Paris, a huge city with a long history of gourmet cooking and gastronomic delights….so let me take you to Dubrovnik, Croatia. Granted, these personal photos are from the summer time, but there are TWO markets available in this small city of less than 30,000.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Okay, how about other cities here in the United States. I started going to farmers markets when I lived in Hartford in the 1980s.  Notice the Connecticut Grown sign…..something we might want to emulate…..have the people offering food at a farmers market post where the food was raised. (I know at the Central City Farmers Market in Huntington we often have produce from North Carolina….why?)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~And on a trip to Seattle I went to the Pike Street Market….admired the guys throwing the fish of course, but also was amazed at the masses of produce and flowers and value added products in February a couple of years ago.

So this March I stopped at the Capital Market in Charleston to see what was offered. …..nothing was outside….no vendors bringing things to the market. Inside, the shops that are there, and they are nice but “from the farm” did not seem to be available.

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I think we can do better. Now that I know how much food is being raised in the winter here in West Virginia, there has to be a way for consumers to easily buy it!!!

The summer farmer markets are all active now. I know that a monthly market is held through the winter in Morgantown and now Huntington will be opening the Wild Ramp which will be an indoor shop open 4 days a week.

The demand from the consumers exists and is high! Farmers–get your high tunnels up and growing! Better income ahead!

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2012 7:01 am

    I remember traveling in Italy at every small corner “pub” we could find fresh picked tomatoes, homemade bread baked that morning and fragrant wine. What more do you need in life? Nice photos!

  2. Teresa Silverthorn permalink
    June 29, 2012 7:02 am

    As sad as this sounds, it’s true.

    Here in Virginia, farmers markets are merely sidewalk sales for grocery store chains.

    No kidding.

    A few years ago, we had something started in the downtown area. As it turned out, Farm Fresh was doing it, selling their chemical veggies, for a higher price, to the unsuspecting public.

    I don’t know what happened after that, I never went to see.

  3. Dubrovniklady permalink
    June 29, 2012 8:23 am

    Thought a few of your photos looked familiar.

  4. June 29, 2012 4:45 pm

    I keep hoping the growing demand will produce more, but we also need a shift in the demographic of aging farmers. It’s been wonderful to see an increase in younger folk trying to get established. It’s up to us concerned consumers to support them!

    • June 29, 2012 5:04 pm

      I saw an article online that the young farmers in Oregon have a growing presence in the dairy segment. I think as the interested people see that the demand is there, they will understand that a living income is possible and more may get into farming. The other issue is that the cost of land has risen so high. Perhaps the states can help some with programs to help with purchasing.

  5. July 2, 2012 11:42 am

    I love my extended family and WV is beautiful, but not being from there I have been pondering this a very long time.

    * Maybe it’s the (until relatively recently) travel difficulties leading to geographic isolation that has incubated the “good enough” subsistence culture/mindset/paradigm that has existed for so long (reminds me of Arkansas);
    * or perhaps it doesn’t help that the state’s laws, etc. are inimical to business;
    * maybe there really IS a pervasive feeling of indifference and “whatever” that begins at the borders resulting from over a century of corruption and cronyism in the government;
    * and just possibly it might have some of its roots in a rather broad deprecation of education (“It’s fine for them other folks, but we’s gettin’ along fine, and I don’t see hows it makes much difference anyway”).

    Whatever the case, it is going to take new attitudes and perspectives about being West Virginian (like, pride, among others), concerted efforts to model new behavior, and MORE to bring about positive changes. I have seen the beginnings of something new and better, and it is promising, but it is going to be an uphill climb – hang in there and don’t quit.

    • July 2, 2012 1:35 pm

      There has been a lot of talk at statewide meetings (I attended one a few weeks ago which was a workshop on how to present heritage festivals) where the issue of pride is raised. For so long (and I know this well, having been brought up in the New York City area) people from West Virginia are considered to be….well, hillbillies, with all the issue of poor education and health and the like. However, as an “outsider” I see things perhaps in ways that the long term residents don’t. And yes, while there is a problem with education here resulting in a lack of knowledge on how to make changes in many areas, there is also a growing educated population who has stellar concepts and the ability to put them into action. Like Arkansas, with its state motto of the “Land of Opportunity” West Virginia is also ripe for the entrepreneur. I see it again and again as I visit farms for the wvfarm2u Collaborative; those farmers who can grab a niche market set themselves up very nicely. A recent survey using public data from the census as well as Dept of Agriculture indicates that West Virginia is 11th in the nation for people using local foods!! The changes that are taking place in my town of Huntington in the past 2 years are remarkable…so yes, WV may have a ways to go, but in some ways it is a leader.

      • July 2, 2012 2:01 pm

        Applause! Applause! You got it! You see it! I lived in Missouri, and the Ozarks at least has been pretty good about having a sense of humor about their own “hillbilly” image and capitalizing on it as a tourist draw and sense of pride. You, too, see “the change a comin’ ” and I am glad you are a part of it. Keep it up, and maybe when we are visiting we will get down that way. :-)

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